10 tips on how you SHOULD harvest Fynbos (to do it right)

What does it mean to pick Fynbos sustainably?

There are a couple of things you should do – and some things you really shouldn’t do, when picking Fynbos if you’re wanting to pick responsibly.

For the past 15 years, Flower Valley has been working on, improving and further refining these steps – to make it as simple as possible for you.

Here are 10 harvesting guidelines to steer you in the right direction

(these guidelines are for you IF you enjoy picking Fynbos for yourself in small quantities. There are a couple of extra guidelines if you’re picking large quantities for the market).

1. THE RIGHT PERMITS

You need to get a permit from CapeNature to pick the Fynbos. If the Fynbos is on someone else’s land, you also need an agreement with that landowner. (Remember, flora carries the same weight legally as protected animals. So if you want to remove protected plants, you need a permit.)

2: SELECT WHAT TO PICK

Decide what you’ll be picking, and be sure it’s included on your permit. Then be sure to pick the right species, given that so many species look alike.

3: USE CLEAN AND SHARP TOOLS

Secateurs and sickles should be sharp and clean. Why? Sharp tools help to avoid splitting stems, which could allow water to penetrate the stems and could cause rot. Clean tools help to prevent spreading disease. One plant may have a disease, which you then spread to a healthy plant. This could impact on Fynbos populations.

4: CARING FOR THE VELD AROUND YOU

You should still care for all plants across the Cape Floral Kingdom. So be careful not to break and uproot plants as you walk and drive. And try to use only existing roads, instead of driving over pristine Fynbos.

5: CUT ONLY HALF THE FLOWER HEADS

Flower Valley recommends that you leave flower heads and cones, so that the plant can reproduce and spread naturally the next year. If a fire comes through a Fynbos veld, you also need enough seed to stay behind to spread naturally.

6: HARVEST EVENLY

This means you spread the cuts around the plant (as opposed to just harvesting one side of a plant). If you don’t cut evenly, you could create exposed areas on the plant that may make it vulnerable to poor weather conditions.

7: CHECK WHERE YOU CUT

This step is relevant for single stemmed plants (like the Phaenocoma).  Cut the stem ABOVE a few shoots. This ensures those shoots can grow out after you’ve cut the plant.

8: CUT AT AN ANGLE

Why? By cutting at an angle, you allow water to run off the cut. If water can’t run off a cut, it could end up rotting the stem.

9: DON’T CUT INTO OLD GROWTH

This is quite a technical step that’s only relevant to species such as Proteas and Leucadendrons, because they die from the bottom up when they’re old. If you cut into the dead growth of these species, no stems will grow from these cuts. So it’s important to only cut into living stems to give the plant a chance to re-grow from that stem.

10: DON’T LEAVE LITTER BEHIND

If you’re a plant lover, you’re unlikely to do this. Litter is obviously detrimental to all the Fynbos animals (think: bailing twine around a Blue Crane’s leg).

The importance of being responsible with our Fynbos heritage.

When you pick Fynbos (for yourself or for the market at a larger scale), chances are you’d like to know whether you’re damaging or helping the veld.

That’s why the Sustainable Harvesting Programme started (in 2003): to provide a toolkit of sustainable practices in the fynbos industry, to support those who pick fynbos for markets.

If partners can help manage the land properly and address invasive alien plants, we can together help ensure a lush, vibrant Fynbos landscape, and help prevent Fynbos extinctions. Find out more about our Sustainable Harvesting Programme.