Restore species at Wynberg park

Elzanne Singels and Alex Lansdowne in the no-mow area.

With very little effort, a miracle has occurred in Wynberg Park, according to Friends of Wynberg Park chairman Rory Rochat.

“Some people may think it’s an unkempt area, but what they don’t know is that plants exist there, some of them thought to be extinct,” he says.

Wynberg Park is one of the most popular urban open spaces in the Cape metropole and is now set to become even more so, says consultant plant conservation and restoration horticulturist Alex Lansdowne who last week found the 200th plant species in the park – 14 of them are International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-list species.

These include the silvertree (leucadendron argenteum), the common pin spiderhead (serruria fasciflora), the peninsula pin cushion (leucospermum conocarpodendrum) and the Wynberg conebush (leucadendron grandiflorum), which is classified as extinct but could come up at Wynberg Park.

An excited Mr Lansdowne said more and more species were popping up in the park thanks to a no-mow policy that was implemented on the north-facing slope of the 22-hectare Wynberg Park in March 2016, by then Cape Town facility manager Dinesh Isaacs.

“This was an unexpected first step in the restoration of the endangered Peninsula granite fynbos habitat of Wynberg Park,” he said.

Restoration ecologist Elzanne Singels said Wynberg Park stuck out like an island from the band of endangered fynbos vegetation type encircling Table Mountain from Lion’s Head to Hout Bay.

She said silvertrees were a striking feature of the vegetation. They once adorned the area in huge numbers and still dominate the wetter southern and eastern slopes.

Mr Rochat said some of the silvertrees had been planted and now
they were doing well and had multiplied.

Mr Lansdowne said he had hoped to plant 670 more silvertrees on Mandela Day this year but had decided to settle for a more manageable 67.

The lack of mowing had allowed many species to passively recover, he said.

These are species that have been dormant in the soil for many decades. Over the past three years, 200 naturally occurring species have been positively identified during regular surveys by other botanists.

“The park can serve as an excellent outdoor classroom and environmental education facility to visitors. It can also be an important corridor to other conservation initiatives on Wynberg Hill, such as recovering the seeds of the Wynberg conebush that may be buried there,” said Mr Lansdowne (“Search for rare protea,” Bulletin April 17, 2017).

He said none of that could happen without the input of the friends of Wynberg Park.

“The Friends form the link between science and the community and have an integral role to play as custodians of the park. Community conservation is the only way to do conservation over the long term in an urban context,” said Mr Lansdowne.

His future plan is to link the no-mow area to the Krakeelwater River and its duck pond and up the bank on the other side.

“Cape Town has the highest biodiversity in the world. We’re doing a great job of using urban areas as biodiversity niches,” he said.

Ward 62 councillor Liz Brunette said the fynbos finds were very good news and that they would be erecting signage in the near future.

Asked about plans to create a skateboard park at Wynberg Park, she said a detailed design had been done a few years ago but there was no money to build it.

Mayco member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, said the City’s recreation and parks department intended to develop the skateboard park on an underutilised portion of the park at the corner of Klaasens Road and the gravel road that leads towards Chart Farm.

“The project first came about in 2013 during a series of public engagements that took place,” said Ms Badroodien.

She said a 2016 plan estimated it could cost R5 million to build the park, which would be developed in phases as it attracted public interest and funding.

The next Friends of Wynberg Park meeting is at Maynardville Park office on Thursday May 30 at 6pm. All are welcome. For further information contact Rory Rochat by email at bpr@tiscali.co.za, or at 082 322 7950.