Photograph by Joe Smereczansky

Protea cynaroides

Common name: King Protea
Family: Proteacea
Description:The King Protea is a woody shrub with tough, leathery leaves growing to one metre in height when mature (4 – 5 years). The flower heads size from 12 – 30 cm in diameter where one bush produces six to ten flower heads in one flowering season.
Distribution: A common species seen throughout the reserve. From the Cedarberg in the northwest to Grahamstown in the east on all mountains from sea level to 1500 meters high.
Pollination: Visited by Scarab and Protea Beetles and different birds, but mainly the Cape Sugar Bird.
Interesting Fact: The King Protea is the National Flower of South Africa. “Protea” is derived from one of the Greek gods, Proteas, a deity that was able to change into many forms. This is an appropriate image, since the Protea is known for its astonishing variety and diversity of flowers and leaves.

Erica hirta

Common name: Heath
Family: Ericaceae
Discription: The heath forms a well-branched shrub which stands between 0.5 and 1.0 m in height and is densely clothed with “Ericoid Leaves” and has displays of deep, rose pink buds which flowers during summer.
Pollination: Typically pollinated by flies.
Distribution: Along the coast, on mountain slopes between 150 m and 1200 m above sea level in the Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Hottentots Holland Mountains. A common sight in the Reserve.
Interesting Fact: At least 660 of the Erica species are endemic to South Africa, and these are often called the Cape heaths, forming the largest family of fynbos.

Virgilia oroboides

Common name: Blossom Tree or Keurboom
Family: Fabaceae
Description: This is a small to medium-sized tree which has bushy branches growing close to the ground, growing up to 1.3 m per year. The trunk can grow up to 60 cm in diameter. The flowers are purple in colour.
Distribution: Native to a small, narrow strip along the south eastern coast of South Africa from the coast of the Cape Peninsula to George.
Pollination: Visited mainly by sunbirds, carpenter bees, honey bees and ants.
Interesting fact: Years ago the wood was high in demand for yokes (ox wagons). It was also used for spars, wagon-bed planks and rafters, and can be used for furniture.

AMmaryllis belladonna

Common name: March Lily
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Description: This flower is an annual, bulbous plant. The bulb first produces a purplish-red stem of about 50 cm long with large clusters of scented, trumpet shaped flowers (10 cm long), coloured pink or white. The leaves only emerge after flowering has occurred.
Distribution: Found among mountainous fynbos, in sandy open areas throughout the Western Cape, commonly seen after fire.
Pollination: Mainly pollinated by carpenter bees and is also visited by the nocturnal Hawk moth.
Interesting fact: The sap within the bulbs of this plant is poisonous and was used by the Khoi-San people on their arrow heads when hunting small game. .

zantedeschia aethiopica

Common name: Arum Lily
Family: Arum
Description: 60 – 100 cm tall with plain green leaves, shaped like an arrow head with a large white flower (Spathe). Flowering from June to December.
Distribution: Widespread throughout South Africa surrounding seasonal wet vleis and streams.
Pollination: Various crawling insects and bees.
Interesting fact: The leaves were traditionally used as a poultice and a treatment for headaches.

gladiolus carneus

Common name: Painted Lady
Family: Iridaceae
Description: 25 – 60 cm perennial with narrow sward shaped leaves with funnel shaped pink or white flowers that have dark pink markings. Flowering from October to December.
Distribution: South Western and Southern Cape on damp sandstone slopes.
Pollination: Specialised pollinators such as butterflies.
Interesting fact: Drought tolerant.

Struthiola myrsintes

Common name: Juffertjie-roer-by-die-nag
Family: Thymelaeaceae
Description: Willowy shrub growing to a height of about 2m. It has narrow elliptical leaves and bears white or pale pink flowers with a hairless tube, flowering throughout the year.
Distribution: Grows on sandstone slopes from the Southwestern Cape to Eastern Cape. 
Pollination: Moths and butterflies.
Interesting fact: The flowers are only scented during the night.

brabejum stellatifolium

Common name: Wild Almond
Family: Proteaceae
Description: Large tree growing to about 15m high. It is multi-stemmed and wide branching with thick bark that is smooth and a pale greyish-brown colour. The dark green leaves are hard and leathery arranged in whorls of six radiating like a star around the branch. Flowers are white and sweetly scented, flowering from December to January.
Distribution: Confined to the fynbos biome, it can be found growing near streams on lower slopes or in sheltered valleys. Very common along the streams in the Nature Reserve. 
Pollination: Insects and birds. 
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Interesting fact: The early settlers in the Cape practiced soaking, boiling, roasting and grinding the fruits to make a coffee substitute from the Khoi.

agathosma capensis

Common name: Buchu
Family: Rutaceae
Description: A shrub growing to about 90cm in length with sweetly spice-scented oval leaves. It bears clusters of white, pink or purple flowers, flowering throughout the year. 
Distribution: Found on slopes and flats of shale, granite or coastal sands from Namaqualand to southern and eastern Cape. Common in the Nature Reserve. 
Pollination: Ants, which bury seeds below ground where it germinates after good rains.  
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Interesting fact: This plant is fire resistant as it can resprout from its persistent rootstock. Unfortunately targeted by flower harvesters for its scented leaves.


The Helderberg Nature Reserve is home to a wonderful variety of fynbos species and all these plants belong to different vegetation types making the Helderberg Nature Reserve unique in its own right. The medium in which the plants grow, in this case soils derived from shale and sandstone, will determine which kind of fynbos will thrive and in turn determines the different animal species that will then reside within and around the reserve. This reserve hosts three different kinds of vegetation types that are…

Southern Afro temperate Forest

Distribution: Predominantly in drainage lines, such as Disa Gorge.
Features: Tall and multi-layered vegetation dominated by yellow woods. Shrub understory dominated by herb layers in mesic/moist habitats. Soils are generally shallow and sandy.
Climate: Annual rainfall averages 863mm that includes mist precipitation and average temperatures between 16 – 22°C during the raining season (Winter).
Conservation: Least Concern

Swartland Shale Renosterveld

Distribution: Along mountain slopes between 50 – 350 m above sea level. The lowest sections of the Reserve constitute this vegetation type.
Features: Undulating plains and valleys supporting low to moderately tall shrubs within clay soils derived from shale (rich in nutrients) dominated by renosterbos.
Climate: Annual rainfall averaging between 270 – 670 mm from May to August with temperatures
Conservation: Critically Endangered

Cape Winelands Shale Fynbos

Distribution: Occur on high hills or low mountain slopes between zero to 700 m above sea level. The middle sections of the Reserve comprise this vegetation type.
Features: Undulating plains or steep slopes with moderately tall vegetation that is dense and dominated by Protea growing in acidic, moist-clay soils (loamy).
Climate: Average rainfall ranges between 520 – 1690 mm annually with temperatures from 6 – 26°C from February to July.
Conservation: Endangered
Endemic Taxon: Moraea aristata, a geophytic herb that is a protected species as its conservation status is Critically Endangered due to urbanization.