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April 01, 2009

Fynbos and fire: from boom to bloom

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Photo courtesy Chris Cloete. See images of the fires by Luke Kelly here.

The Western Cape has seen more fires this year than in the past decade.

They have had a devastating effect on vegetation, but at the same time there is a comforting secret: the unique local fynbos needs fire as part of its life cycle.

On Saturday it rained a few drops (two to three days after the fire) and already I was able to find some green grass shoots (picture below) rising through the blackened, but fertile, soil.

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When I was at the top of Devil’s Peak, the view took my breath away. The contrast of the burnt mountain against the crisp blue sky is powerful and made me realise something…

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View from burnt Devil’s Peak Mountain looking over Cape Town

For the past 10 or so years the world’s economy has been growing at an unsustainable rate and this false boom has now gone boom!

It has taken away a lot – from some of us, everything. It has certainly not left anyone unaffected – even the price of basics like milk and bread has gone up.

But shouldn’t we, like fynbos, see it as the burning down of the old to grow a new, better, stronger system?

Fire lilies and watsonias come out and the conservationists have time to clear the alien vegetation – it is almost a cleansing of the system.

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We are burnt only to grow more beautiful.

To see more photographs of the after-effects of the fire on Table Mountain, visit Wendren’s Flickr photostream.

Visit Wendren’s blog to read more about green issues in Cape Town.

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