Nature puts on a show at Kenilworth Racecourse

A Cape dwarf chameleon at the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area.

The Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area’s flora and fauna are flourishing with the arrival of spring, and the public can take a walk there this Sunday to soak up the natural splendour.

The 52-hectare reserve is in the middle of the racecourse and surrounded by suburbia.

Visitors there on Sunday will be able to marvel at a splash of floral diversity and colour, says Fayruz Prins, the reserve’s assistant conservation officer.

“As spring arrives, it is around the time our seasonal wetlands start drying up. It is also the best time to explore the field as bright colours start to appear and animals start foraging again. Springtime in fynbos is what most of us look forward to because of the beauty it holds.”

Types of fynbos found this time of year include the geophytes – plants with underground storage organs, such as bulbs, tubers and rhizomes, for water and energy. These are dominated by the Moraea species from the Iridaceae family.

“It is also the flowering time of Watsonias, which are often seen around the Cape,” says Ms Prins. “As the days warm up, snakes start moving to the surface from their burrows, and other reptiles make their appearance to start basking in the sun. We start seeing migratory birds that fill the sky such as swallows and raptors, which circle in the sky for prey.”

The reserve is unique in the sense that it is one of the largest and most pristine tracts of remaining Cape Flats sand fynbos, says Ms Prins.

“85% of the fynbos vegetation type is irreversibly transformed by urbanisation and agriculture which means only 15% is left. Of this 15%, only 2% is protected by law. No other protected area compares to the site’s diversity relative to size. This is due to the protection that it got when the racetrack was established.”

In 2006, the City of Cape Town’s biodiversity management branch, Cape Nature and Gold Circle (now Cape Racing) made a pact to protect the critically endangered vegetation at the site, which has more than 300 plant species.

“This year, in March, we conducted an ecological burn in the largest section of the conservation area, which was last burnt in 2005. This vegetation type has a fire interval of 12 to 15 years, hence it was due for a burn,” says Ms Prins. “This spring has shown the success of that fire as the field is recovering with beautiful geophytes and fynbos seedlings.”

The walk will take place from 9am to noon on Sunday for family and friends above the age of 6. Call 021 700 1843 or email conservation1K@kenilworthracing.com for details.

A dainty moraea (Moraea tripetala)