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Authors: Petra Vandecasteele; Paul Godard
In Celebration of Fynbos is a treasure trove of practical information and exquisite photography.
It showcases 50 plants from the fynbos kingdom, focusing on how to use them in gardening, culinary, medicinal, healing and decorative ways.
A double-page spread is dedicated to each flower and, while the emphasis remains on gardening, the practical information, ranging from how to make sundowners and iced tea to fabric dye and medicinal potions, is extremely useful.
Petra Vandecasteele is a freelance copywriter who regularly contributes to various publications.
Paul Godard who has a PHD in Science, is a landscape photographer and has exhibited his work in Brussels, Paris, Washington, Harare and Cape Town.
He is the main photographer for the Kogelberg Biosphere website and also contributes to Petra’s features.
They have travelled extensively and live at the edge of the Kogelberg Biosphere in Gordon’s Bay, near Cape Town.
This book is a treasure trove of delightful bits of information and passionate photography. In sharing my exciting discoveries, I hope they will have the same effect on you as they had on me: rushing off to the nearest nursery, buying out their stock, re-landscaping my garden and dragging everyone in from far and near to experience the magic of the plants introduced to you in this book.
It all started when I was five months pregnant. I saw a spark in the starlit sky and fifteen minutes later, the whole mountain was on fire. It could have cost us our home had we not fought fiercely to save it. The next morning there was not a trace of colour left in our once-dense garden.
There was not a living creature for as far as we could see except for the ants, which came out by the zillions. The whole mountain was dark and covered with soot. Soon after, the fynbos started sprouting out of the blackness, transforming the mountain into a bouquet of joy. We have never seen as many flowers as during that spring.
With each new sighting my amazement grew, and when Paul began photographing this floral explosion, I knew I would never again be able to ignore the inherent beauty of fynbos. What his images revealed changed my perception forever. I went on a journey of discovery and marvelled at nature's most amazing creative designs and her impressive ingenuity when it comes to the survival of the species.
At one stage, it felt like meeting a group of people and getting to know them - 'Let's see who you are' - or if Paul photographed a flower at the end of my research I would say, 'Wow, is that what you look like?'
You could compare this experience to arriving at a dorpie in the Karoo. You know nobody and it looks like nothing much is going on, but as you get to know the people and the way they live, and they invite you into their homes, you realise that there is actually a great deal going on. This dorpie in the middle of nowhere looks dormant from the outside, but is surprisingly vibrant within.
My adrenaline levels rise when I find out something new about how the Khoisan and the early settlers used a specific plant, or when I step into a farm stall and see a whole range of beauty products made from one of 'my' plants. It's like a spark of recognition - 'Hey, I know you!' - and suddenly it's no longer just a cosmetic item on the shelves. It has become an amazing gift from nature.
Visiting a rooibos tea farmer and joining him in his bakkie for an hour's drive on a challenging 4x4 track through a kloof was another eye-opener. It is the only way to get to the organic rooibos fields, something the farmer does several times a week to check on the crops and the workers. There I learnt how, still today, the seeds are collected from ant hills by the local people.
I discovered that rooibos is a beautiful bush that grows without any irrigation under the baking sun. 'So this is how my cup of tea starts its journey to my table!' When I now look at the wild garlic that has grown near my kitchen for a year or two, I suddenly realise that I can actually eat it, and even use it as a disinfectant or a tick repellent.
I also understand now why this is one of the few places in the garden where we don't have moles. The other day, when I had indulged in too much garlic bread, I thought, 'All right, let's see what the book says.' I went to make myself a strong cup of buchu tea and guess what? I felt much better.
My research has also led me to some truly 'fynbos-addicted' people who have shared their passion with me and taught me to see the fun in fynbos - like eating protea seeds, feeding cheese crumbs to carnivorous plants and making love charms.
What I find most extraordinary in all this is how the passion for fynbos creates a bond between people. One day I visited an art gallery in Johannesburg and when I went back a year later, the owner vividly remembered me because we had both been so excited about the same fynbos flower.
I am so fortunate to have witnessed this incredible beauty and to have learnt so many exciting things about fynbos that I simply couldn't stop myself from sharing them with you. I wish you much pleasure while reading this book, and still more when trying out some of the ideas. Enjoy!
Please consult your doctor or pharmacist before trying any of the health remedies included in this book. Many fynbos species are protected by law, for the sake of conservation and to avoid over-picking, which has threatened some of the species with extinction. To collect plants in the wild, you need to apply for a permit at CapeNature - severe penalties are metered out for unauthorised picking.
When buying plants, keep your receipts, and if you have received plants from a farmer or a friend, get a letter stating this. Apart from this, anything growing in your garden is yours, legally. The best is still to buy plants from licensed sellers, such as the botanical gardens.
Most of the plants in this book are fynbos in the strict sense of the word, others in a broader sense. The plants are shown in alphabetical order, not by category. The aim of this book is not to serve as a scientific tool to identify the plants, but to create awareness and to inspire.
ZANTEDESCHIA AETHIOPICA - WHITE ARUM LILY:
NAME: This plant is most probably named after Professor Zantedeschi, an Italian physician and botanist. In classical times, the word aethiopica was used to refer to the regions 'south of the known world', i.e. south of Egypt and Libya.
IN THE GARDEN: The faintly scented flowers attract a multitude of crawling insects and bees, which will pollinate the flowers in exchange for food, each one in its own way. The white crab spider, for instance, visits the flower to eat the insects. It does not spin webs, but makes good use of its paleness as an effective camouflage in the spathe. The tiny arum lily frog also uses the arum as an easy ambush to catch unsuspecting insects.
Porcupines are crazy about the large rhizomes and will savagely destroy whole colonies of arum lilies. The good thing is that thanks to this brutal pruning, the plants regenerate fresher than ever with the most amazing flowers. It's worth the massacre!
HEALING: In traditional healing, the leaves of the white arum lily are used to relieve headaches. They can also be used as a poultice.
DID YOU KNOW: The lush green leaves grow taller if the arum lily is planted in the shade.
TOXIC: The arum lily is toxic and causes swelling of the throat when ingested.
SKIN CARE: In traditional healing, the leaves are heated and applied as a plaster to wounds, boils and sores.
DECORATION: The cut flower is long lasting. The white arum lily is a symbol of purity and is used for bridal bouquets.
EASY TO GROW: Perennial - flowers from winter till summer; Likes lots of water - drought resistant - full sun - semi-shade (if no permanent water); Plant grows to 1.5 m; Propagated from seed and by division; Likes rich, well-drained soil; Tolerates wind and light frost; Good along streams, edges and near ponds; Used as a firebreak; Attracts porcupines, crab spiders and frogs.
TIPS: Water abundantly during the growing season. Plant one near a tap as a screen.