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September 25, 2005

Awesome Neighbors

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[The protea nerifolia bush regenerates through fire. The seeds require scorching and forest fires have swept through the Western Cape regularly, for millennia, from long before the arrival of mammals.]

I’ve been living in this stormy corner with my wife and a couple of dogs for 8 years. For us, that’s quite a while. We have a vineyard growing down below the house that was planted in 1910. Some of the oaks around the house have been here for more than 150 years. But people have been here for much longer than that.

We have a collection of carefully fashioned hand axes picked up in the vineyards that shows humans have been making house here for more than 40,000 years.

Overlooking all of this human endeavour, from every vantage point on the surrounding hills, the beautiful proteas have watched us all come and go, for hundreds of thousands of years, generation by generation.
This year, just like every other one, there are millions of these four to six inch blooms on the steep slopes beside us where no plough has ever been, a carpet of dense olive green, peppered with countless red and white dots.

This south west corner of Africa is called the Western Cape, referring to the Cape of Good Hope, is home to more types of indigenous plants than any similar-sized area on earth. At least 70% of the 9600 plant species of the Cape Floral Kingdom are found nowhere else on earth. It is a global biodiversity asset of great importance and is a World Heritage site.

We are in the foothills of the Limietberg mountains, adjoining the Nature Reserve, with a handful of vineyards developing their leafy canopy and embryonic bunches, surrounded by the pre-historic beauty of fynbos-clad towering mountains.

And we often forget how lucky we are.

Posted by graham knox at September 25, 2005 12:58 PM

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