Disasters usually strike without warning and tend to leave uncertainty and devastation in their wake. As we navigate these turbulent times, nature reminds us that hope always prevails.
Following a devastating fire that raged across Table Mountain on Sunday 15 March 2020, shortly before the start of the national lockdown, the mountain is slowly starting to show signs of rebirth – with the first flowers starting to appear across the scorched landscape. Hundreds of beautiful parasol lilies (Crossyne guttata) are blooming on top of the mountain.
The pale pink lilies are found on the slopes and flats of the south-western Cape and are usually the first to bloom after a fire. The flower head is about 20cm in diameter and can be as tall as 45cm. While the fire may have been seen to be completely destructive, fynbos must burn every 10 to 20 years, as the ash from the dead vegetation is returned to the soil for another cycle.
“Nature reminds us there is hope when all seems lost,” says Wahida Parker, managing director of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC). “While times may seem dark, we have to remain hopeful that better days are coming, like the rebirth that the mountain is experiencing.”
Some major fires of the past include the Christmas Day fire on Devil’s Peak in 1935, another one on the northern slopes of Table Mountain in January 1950 and, of course, the big fire of January 2000 that started at Red Hill and Silvermine. Fires are, by nature, sensational news, even more so on the Cape Peninsula, where a national park protecting fynbos must burn every 10 to 20 years.
“Fynbos must burn. A fire is the beginning of the life-cycle for many fynbos plants. Table Mountain is made out of ancient sandstone – millions of years of erosion have leached the nutrients out of the soil and, through the fire, the ash from the dead vegetation is returned to the soil for another cycle,” says TMACC environmental control officer Marie Abraham.
Abraham explains that some plants (such as some restios, or reeds) have ants store their seeds undergound to protect them from the hot fire – again, giving us that extra bit of hope that flowers will bloom after a disaster.
With the fire season over and the Cape winter upon us, the colder and wetter weather causes the fynbos to once again bloom. Other notable fynbos that has also started flowering includes the beautiful pink-and-white sugarbush (Protea repens).
“Just as the parasol lilles are showing off their colours, so will the nation bloom again,” concludes Parker.