Common ‘an oasis of wildness’

Rondebosch Common with spiloxene capensis flowers in the foreground.

The Friends of Rondebosch Common (FRC) was established in 1991 by the late Dr Christine Dare, under the auspices of the Wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa (WESSA), whose slogan is “People caring for the Earth”

Rondebosch Common is a remnant of the national vegetation type known as Cape Flats sand fynbos which occurs exclusively within the City of Cape Town.

Over 80% of this has been lost making the common’s conservation status critically endangered at a national level.

More than 200 indigenous plant species have been recorded on the common, some of which are rare or endangered. There are also many bird species, small mammals, reptiles, insects and spiders.

The common has a fascinating history, including that of the early inhabitants of the Cape, the military, church, farming and sport. It was given national monument status in 1961.

In 1996, the late Professor Kader Asmal, agreed to be our patron. In his acceptance speech he said, “Good hospitable open spaces in our cities such as the common are like art galleries and orchestras: they give us that extra dimension of enjoyment, they provide food for the soul, havens of mystery and excitement.”

To raise funds and create awareness of this wonderful “oasis of wildness” within our community, the FRC produced a set of cards in 1996 and a book, My Year on Rondebosch Common, in 2008 of the art work of the late Betty Dwight.

In 2014, a DVD of the flowers of Rondebosch Common photographed by Fiona Watson was made.

Each year we have a number of spring walks and a public talk pertinent to the common and we publish newsletters for our members.

The FRC has been guided in its work by the City’s 1995 Rondebosch Common Management Plan. Much of our effort in the early years, has been to remove alien vegetation.

Funds raised are used to train previously disadvantaged people to identify and remove alien vegetation as well as keeping the
common as clean of litter as possible.

In 1996 and again in 2006, the FRC converted parts of the old car park into wetland areas.

Friends worked closely with the City and contractors during the construction of the non-motorised transport path around the common.

In 2001, Friends started a new phase by commissioning a detailed restoration plan. This is an ongoing project which includes City Parks, City Biodiversity and their Westlake Nursery, Kirstenbosch and various botanists.

The committee continues to make contact with and encourage involvement by the local schools as the common is an ideal “outdoor classroom.”