Van Stadens Nature Reserve: an undiscovered treasure
The Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve is one of the Easern Cape’s undiscovered gems and a few dedicated folks are determined to return the Reserve to its former glory.
Yesterday I spend the morning at Van Stadens, which is situated 35km from Port Elizabeth, with the Friends of Van Stadens society. It was great fun, helping gather seed for next year’s plant sale that will generate funds for the Reserve.
Being a (very) amateur photographer, I had a pleasant chat with a guy called Kurt, who was a wealth of information about the subject and literally gave on the site practical lessons as he took pictures of tree frogs and flowers.
It was great to find, in our modern bustling world, a group of people who were happy to give of their time for a worthwhile cause and happily pass on their information about seeds, plants and the Reserve.
The reserve consists of 450 hectares of coastal forest and fynbos and there are even 33 different species of protea to be discovered.
Flowering time for proteas had passed but we were able to collect the seed from the spend heads. Discoveries of tree frogs that were sunning themselves amongst the seeds and unusual plants whose name I did not catch were made.
One plant had sticky leaves and stems which it uses to trap ants and other small insects.
Other seeds were also being collected as funds are being raised to create a botanical garden within the Reserve. The Friends of the Reserve have a vision to imitate Kirstenbosch Gardens, with different sections within the garden, like protea, aloes, succulents and huge beds of indigenous to the area plants, like agaphanthas, clivia and watsonias.
There are 11 plant species in the Van Stadens Reserve which are endemic – meaning they occur in the Van Stadens area and nowhere else on earth.
One of these is Aster laevigatus, a little white or mauve daisy first discovered in the early 1900s. A single specimen was taken to London and preserved in the Kew Gardens herbarium.
There is a river walk as well as forest trail that I need to go back and complete. And believe it or not, access to the Reserve is free and according to the Friends, completely safe and crime free.
Bird watchers would be delighted as there over a 100 species of bird to be found in the Reserve.
Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the Port Elizabeth area this December.