The Allure of the Endemic19th June 2016 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
I do love seeing plants growing in their natural habitat, especially when they grow nowhere else. I remember standing in a field in South Africa – actually the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Reserve just outside Darling in the Western Cape – while a botanist pointed out flowers that were unique to those few acres. There are a number of wildflower reserves around Darling that are equally spectacular in the South African spring and while not all the plants may be unique to that habitat, the vast majority of them will be unfamiliar to gardeners from the Northern Hemisphere. This sandy, bulb-rich habitat is known as Renosterveld. Renoster is the Afrikaans for rhinoceros, reflecting the fact that this countryside once provided them with their favourite grazing. Just looking at my photos has me longing to return.
This is actually a bit of a detour from what I set out to write about, which is a more recent sighting of an endemic plant while we were in Italy. The Marsican iris is only found in the Abruzzo region of the Apennine mountains – coming across them growing in a marshy bit of ground was a reminder that many of our favourite garden plants are closely related to their wild relatives – and don’t necessarily come from another continent.