Alien clearing: Some good news (amid COVID-19 impacts)


But the project still managed to clear around 5 700 hectares in just eight months. And it created employment for 144 project participants.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is funding the project over a three-year period. They are providing funding of R11,9-million between 2019 and 2022. The first year’s budget amounted to R3,7-million. Landowners involved in the project provide co-funding support. And Flower Valley Conservation Trust has raised additional funding for management and monitoring from donors, such as the Drakenstein Trust and the Millennium Trust.

The project has a number of deliverables:

  • To clear invasives for the first time on a site (initial clearing);
  • To undertake follow-up clearing (sites already cleared in the past);
  • To provide both accredited and non-accredited training (including herbicide, first aid training and a course on snake awareness);
  • And to create employment opportunities for our project participants

We’re extremely pleased that our ABI Alien Clearing Project participants are still receiving support while they’re at home during lockdown. We’re very grateful to the Department and our funders for their continued support during this lockdown period.

Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, not only in the Overberg, but around the world.

Around 45,000 hectares are infested by invasive plants in the Agulhas Plain alone, says the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (a 2018 report). Not only do these invasive plants consume water, resulting in around 5% and 19% flow reductions in the Agulhas Plain, but they’re also closely linked to a changing climate.

To address this threat, the ABI Alien Clearing Project launched in 2013. Since the launch, we’ve worked with nine land user groups (such as conservancies), to clear strategically across the landscape. The nine conservancies together cover around 110 000 hectares.

The nine conservancies are:

The work forms part of Flower Valley’s Natural Resource Management Programme – through which we aim to protect our fynbos-covered landscapes for life and livelihoods.

Flower Valley Conservation Trust

Natural Resource Management: Alien Clearing

When invasive alien plants are removed from our fynbos biome, our river courses, wetlands and other natural landscapes, then nature can provide her bounty uninterrupted.  


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Flower Valley’s latest news

2020 is a really a big year for us (and April a big month): It’s when Flower Valley Conservation Trust turns 21 years old! 

Can’t get out into nature? We’re bringing some fynbos to you instead

Did you know that exposure to plants can boost your health? And in times of lockdown – they can especially support your mental and emotional health. 

Research shows that time spent in a natural setting (yes, even a small garden), can help reduce stress, make you more productive and creative, help you remember better, and reduce signs of depression.

Right now, many of us simply don’t have access to nature (let along a shop-bought fynbos bouquet) – as we remain safely home to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

So, if you can’t enjoy some of the fynbos beauty outdoors, we’ll bring some of the fynbos beauty into your home (albeit a virtual presence). 

More specifically, we’re sharing some of those lesser-known fynbos plants you’re likely to see in your sustainably-harvested fynbos bouquet (these species are harvested from natural fynbos landscapes, as opposed to flower orchards). 

‘Glasogies’ (literally translated as ‘Glass eyes’)

Staavia radiata is often found in fynbos bouquets. It’s usually used as a filler – in other words, it’s used around the pretty focal flowers (such as the Proteas). But that doesn’t make these magical white flowers any less spectacular.

Staavia radiata is known to resprout vigorously after fire. It flowers between September and December, and occurs across large parts of the Cape Floral Kingdom (as such, it’s listed as a species of Least Concern).

‘Blombos’ (literally translated as ‘Flower bush’)

We can show you pictures of the pretty Metalasia muricata. But unfortunately technology doesn’t yet allow us to share their very prominent smell with you – they have a distinctive honey scent. They also have hardy leaves – and flowers range from white, to brown, and event to pink and purple.

This species is listed as Least Concern and is harvested from natural fynbos landscapes. It’s widespread and abundant across much of the Cape Floral Kingdom, especially the coastal areas and flowers between May and September. (It’s also got great garden potential).

Cape everlasting

The Phaenocoma prolifera is known as the ‘strooiblommetjie’ (translated as ‘straw flower’). If you’ve touched it, then you’ll know why – it feels a bit like straw or paper. The flowers are pink when they’re young, but as they grow older, they fade to white.

They flower between September and March – and are listed as Least Concern because they are fairly widespread (from the Cape Peninsula all the way down to Bredasdorp). But they do face some threats: If they’re picked when they are too young, they can be killed.

Dune conebush

Leucadendron coniferum is also often found in fynbos bouquets as a filler. The cones start off as pink/red, but as they get older, then become green. They flower between August and September.

This species is listed as Vulnerable. And what’s more, it has a Vulnerability Score of 5 (this means that it must be monitored closely to ensure it’s not over-harvested). It’s also threatened by invasive plants, loss of habitat and degradation.

Line-leaf conebush

The Leucadendron linifolium is also listed as Vulnerable – that’s because you’ll often find them growing in wetlands (and many wetlands have been lost over the decades). They also have a slightly higher Vulnerability Index score (4), which means they must be monitored.

They flow between September and October. These plants are pollinated by insects – and the seeds are kept safely in the female cones, only to be released following a fire.

Flower Valley Conservation Trust

Natural Resource Management: Sustainable Harvesting Programme

When fynbos is picked sustainably, you not only protect the fynbos kingdom for future generations, you also protect the livelihoods of those who harvest it. 


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Flower Valley’s latest news

Flower Valley’s latest news

2020 is a really a big year for us (and April a big month): It’s when Flower Valley Conservation Trust turns 21 years old! 

Is wild fynbos harvesting viable without Silver Brunia?

A new study has highlighted the importance of Silver Brunia (Brunia laevis) as an economic driver for fynbos harvesters. And the potential threats this could hold for the species – and for fynbos pickers.

The study, undertaken by Matthew Fainman and Prof Beatrice Conradie at the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town asked the question: “Wild-harvesting fynbos flowers: Still a viable business?”

According to Matthew, at a Sustainable Harvesting Programme (SHP) stakeholder engagement session held on Wednesday, 22 January 2020, “Brunia made up 6% of the flowers harvested, but 10 to 30% of the team’s revenue. So we asked the question: Can a harvesting team still be profitable without Brunia?”

The data for the research was based on Flower Valley’s harvesting team between 2008 and 2015. Keep in mind that these results are from a single case study, and represents a typical model for small scale harvesters, but other business models do exist within the wild flower industry.

Fynbos prices stagnated and even declined

The research found that prices for Brunia rose from R1 to R1.80 per stem over that time. But real prices (prices adjusted for inflation) for other species either stagnated or declined over this time. “For the Flower Valley team, it became clear that Brunia laevis is how the team made a profit,” he said.

The fynbos stems are picked by harvesters, arranged into bouquets at pack sheds, and are then sold by retailers in South Africa and in the United Kingdom.

The research concludes that this trend “could lead to overharvesting of valuable species as independent harvesting teams scramble to maintain their revenues”. Matthew added that, “The low prices paid to harvesters in turn result in low prices paid to landowners. This weakens the economic incentive for landowners to conserve fynbos.”

The threats of broadcast sowing

This could lead to more broadcast sowing – a practice whereby a landowner spreads fynbos seeds in natural landscapes. Often these species, however, don’t naturally occur on these landscapes, and they in turn could provide environmental threats to locally endemic species.

According to Flower Valley’s Programme Manager for Natural Resource Management, Kirsten Watson at the SHP meeting, there’s a need to investigate the environmental sustainability of Brunia laevis as a priority. There’s also a need to explore economic diversification options for small-scale harvesters, such as alien clearing, fire wood or other fynbos products.

Honeybush: Barriers to small-scale production

In another research project discussed at the SHP meeting, Stellenbosch University’s Rhoda Malgas looked at why a specific community with a long history of honeybush harvesting is not pursuing honeybush production today.

Despite the opportunities in honeybush production (an industry identified in the development of the Green Economy), the old mission station of Genadendal in the Overberg has highlighted numerous limitations to pursuing this industry. These include a perceived lack of experience, knowledge and interest, difficulty in securing labour, theft, no irrigation and limited access to land.

Rhoda says, “It became clear that many issues lie in the governance side – and not so much on the biophysical side.”

Ways to overcome these barriers

Rhoda suggests in order to overcome many of these perceived limitations, more extension officers are required with agroecological training. “We also need transgenerational knowledge exchange between youth and elders. We need specialised short courses for land-users. And we need to document and maintain local ecological knowledge as a means to conserve wild and agricultural resources.”

Kirsten said the South African Honeybush Tea Association and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning are working to create a Community of Practice in the industry – aimed to unify and empower a fragmented sector. “There’s a need to investigate this idea further for a cut flower or Fynbos community of practice in our area to help address these challenges.”

Tips on how to remove 3 new invasive plant species

It’s quite simply not that easy to remove any invasive alien plant. Each species requires a different technique to try to prevent it from re-growing.

The same applies to three ‘new’ and emerging invasive alien plant species found to be growing on the Agulhas Plain: Kangaroo Paw, Mauritian Hemp and Australian bottlebrush.

The species are now being cut down and removed by a Flower Valley alien clearing team, partnering with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Here are practical tips to – as successfully as possible – remove these plants, and prevent them from spreading.

1. KANGAROO PAW (Anigozanthos flavidus)

If the Kangaroo Paw plants are in dense stands, SANBI advises the careful use of herbicide (but extreme care must be taken to prevent spray drift, which could affect other species). Where plants are pulled out, the biomass must be placed on large black plastic sheets, and then they must be sprayed again with herbicide, to enhance decay.

2: MAURITIAN HEMP (Furcraea foetida)

The leaves of the Mauritian Hemp must be slashed, before it is foliar-sprayed. Without this step, the plant may not take in the herbicide. Again, care must be taken to prevent spray-drift when applying the herbicide.

3: AUSTRALIAN BOTTLEBRUSH (Melaleuca linearis)

Small plants should be hand pulled – although you must ensure that the roots are removed. Where the trees are cut down, herbicide must be applied to the stump immediately after cutting down the plant. SANBI recommends using a diluted imazapyr herbicide.

In the case of the Australian Bottlebrush, there is also extreme concern regarding the seeds. Each capsule on the seed cone contains around 60 seeds – which like Hakea, opens a few days after being killed. This facilitates the spread of the species.

In the Stanford area, where the Bottlebrush has been found, the fantastic, supportive landowner is ensuring that ALL seeds are removed from all the cut trees. This is not easy work, but is vital to prevent spread.

If you find any of these three invasive species in the Agulhas Plain, please get in touch with us. Email: with the details (including the location).

Look out for these 3 ‘new’ threatening invasive plants

Three new and emerging invasive alien species are being targeted on the Agulhas Plain.

The plan is to rid the area of these three species – before they spread beyond their current farm boundaries, threatening our region’s biodiversity. 

A Flower Valley Conservation Trust alien clearing team has worked to remove the species, partnering with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

And even though the SANBI-funded project ended in March 2019, residents of the Agulhas Plain are still asked to get involved: To contact Flower Valley Conservation Trust if you come across any of these three species.

(This way we can ensure they’re removed in the next funding cycle). 


The three are:

  • Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus)
  • Mauritian Hemp (Furcraea foetida)
  • Australian Bottlebrush (Melaleuca linearis)



Here’s why the experts are so concerned about these invasive species:


This species is native to Western Australia. But it’s very adaptable to most soil types – even water-stressed areas (like South Africa). It’s immune to most fungal attacks – and SANBI warns it could pose a threat to the rich biodiversity of the Agulhas Plain. It has been growing on two farms in the Plain, where our alien clearing team has been working to remove them.


This species is originally from the Caribbean and tropical South America. But it’s extremely invasive, and not only in South Africa (it’s invasive in Eastern and South-Western Australia too). You’ll find it in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It was found to be growing in the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area – with immediate action taken to remove it. It’s listed as a Category 1a plant invader – which means it must be eradicated.


The narrow-leaved bottlebrush is very concerning to SANBI because it so easily outcompetes native vegetation. That’s a worry for our rich fynbos landscapes. It has been found on a farm near Stanford in the Plain (although it has also been found in Wolseley, Tulbagh and Rooi Els). It’s a member of the Myrtle family, endemic to New South Wales and Queensland in Australia.

While this project may have completed, we are still keeping an eye out for emerging invasive species, and by working with partners, are looking to remove them before they become a problem. 

If you see these 3 invaders (or another you’re concerned about), contact Stanley Engel. Email: (preferably include your photos of the plant). 

An unusual day in the life of a Field Monitor

Flower Valley’s field monitors

Climbing a fynbos mountain daily, seeing wildlife up close and personal? That’s exactly what fynbos harvesting teams do every day while picking stems for the market. And Flower Valley’s field monitors got to experience just what that entails for a number of months.

The Sustainable Harvesting Programme team has undertaken intensive field monitoring across the Agulhas Plain, looking at the impacts of fynbos harvesting and establishing practical methods to measure this impact over time.

So Flower Valley’s two monitors, Daylene van Riet and Berna Jacobs, followed harvesting teams and climbed mountains to evaluate the impact of fynbos harvesting.

Just like harvesting itself, being a Fynbos Field Monitor is an unusual job that usually includes a truly South African adventure while still getting the job done. And it’s not for the faint-hearted.  

For example, the monitors had many encounters with wildlife while moving through the fynbos, including snakes that only give you a moment’s notice of their presence. Daylene nearly stepped on a Puff Adder (the Puff Adder is one of the deadliest snakes in Africa) – but luckily the snake slithered away quickly to protect itself. And Berna had a close encounter with a Rinkhals Cobra (a Spitting Cobra), which also fortunately slithered away into a bush with no harm done.

Daylene and Berna also had an encounter with a massive male baboon. The baboon’s warning call from less than one 1 meter away in a Protea bush sent all three, including the big baboon, running into different directions.

The presence of baboons also played out in other forms. After surveying a property, the team noticed that fynbos stems – particularly Protea repens – were being broken off. This was certainly not being done as per the Sustainable Harvesting Code of Best Practice. Only after an investigation did they discover that this was not the work of a harvesting team – but rather baboons breaking the Protea flower heads to drink the nectar.

Here’s the lesson we learned: One may not realise the dangers and risky adventures that harvesters experience daily while collecting beautiful flowers for bouquets.

Thanks to our fierce Field Monitors, Berna and Daylene, for the vital information they collected, and for reminding us of the extraordinary job that fynbos harvesters do.


Fynbos foodie options and their medicinal benefits

Fynbos offers a number of tasty foodie options. So on World Food Day (16 October), we’re taking a slightly different view of fynbos – to see how to use fynbos in food (responsibly, of course), and some of the medicinal benefits.

Great SA Bake Off Judge, Tjaart Walraven, and Vineyard Chef, Carl van Rooyen, compiled a fynbos-infused selection of sweets and savoury treats.

So here are some of the menu options presented earlier this year at a Fynbos Fusion event (hosted by Flower Valley Conservation Trust, Pick n Pay and the Vineyard Hotel).


1. Wild Rosemary-infused Chicken Mayonnaise Filled Ciabatta

Wild rosemary offers a natural way to fight an oncoming cold. It also promotes healthy hair and skin, with rich anti-ageing properties.

It also helps ease off a migraine, and reduces stress and anxiety.


2. Orange and Citrus Buchu Crème Brûlée

Buchu offers wonderful medicinal benefits. For example, eating buchu or drinking buchu tea helps to improve your immune system (a great natural way to re-energise when you’re feeling a bit flat).

It’s also handy if you have a bit of a hangover, or a bladder infection. And it serves as a natural insect repellant against mosquitos.


3. Sour Fig Jam Baked Cheesecake

Sour figs are considered to be anti-fungal, antiseptic and antibacterial. They’re also great for treating scars: they’re said to help regenerate cells, while the juice helps to treat burns and wounds.

Sour figs also help when you have digestive troubles, and mouth and stomach ulcers.

Of course, we recommend you harvest your fynbos responsibly – not damaging the plant during the picking process, and leaving seed stock in the veld, so that new plants can continue to grow across the landscapes.


See our Sustainable Harvesting Programme for more on info.



Meet Daylene, our SHP field monitor

The Sustainable Harvesting team has received additional support to test new fynbos monitoring methods. A field monitor, Daylene van Riet has joined the team. She will now work with fynbos harvesters who are members of the Sustainable Harvesting Programme, together testing the field monitoring method and capturing fynbos harvesting data.

Daylene will also assist veld harvesters to follow the sustainable harvesting principles, record field assessment data correctly and complete independent fynbos assessments and capture this information digitally.


Rupert Koopman, Botanist for CapeNature and member of the Sustainable Harvesting Steering Committee joined the SHP team with Daylene, to advise on the monitoring system and improve it where necessary. Trevor Adams, Botanist for SANParks, also joined the team recently to better understand the monitoring methodology. Adams specialises in monitoring species of special concern in fynbos and wetlands.

With this monitoring system in place, the Sustainable Harvesting team will remain on top of harvesting trends, to help support the responsible harvesting of key species. The system is being rolled out in the Agulhas Plain area as a starting point, and will later be implemented across other harvesting areas across the Cape Floral Kingdom.


How much do you love – and know – fynbos?

Do you think that you are an expert in fynbos? Take our fun quiz to see for yourself.



Fynbos is threatened on a daily basis by:

Correct! Wrong!

There are MANY threats to fynbos. These include climate change, invasive aliens and over-harvesting.

What’s South Africa’s national flower?
Correct! Wrong!

Protea cynaroides, better known as the King Protea.

Which bird can only survive in fynbos – and will die out without it?

Correct! Wrong!

The Sugarbird is dependent on fynbos and feeds mainly off Proteas.

What flower is in Flower Valley’s logo?

Correct! Wrong!

We have a Pincushion in our logo

What fynbos species is only found on Flower Valley Farm and surrounds, and nowhere else in the world?

Correct! Wrong!

The critically endangered Erica irregularis is a special species to us, growing only on our farm and surrounds.

How many species grow in the Cape Floral Kingdom?

Correct! Wrong!

Our Kingdom has around 9600 different species - making it the most diverse kingdom in the world, isn’t that great?

Fynbos loves fire – true or false?

Correct! Wrong!

Fynbos and fire work hand in hand and must happen in a controlled manner every 12 years or so to achieve the best results of fynbos regrowth.

What fynbos family has more than 6000 species, and includes plants like the irregularis and plukenetti?

Correct! Wrong!

The Erica family has more than 6000 species.

How much do you love – and know – fynbos?

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Brunia drives a fynbos focus


Silver brunia

Silver brunia is helping to focus attention on the Cape Floral Kingdom – and specifically, the need to harvest fynbos sustainably.

In an article featured in the Business Day, the demand for fynbos is highlighted – with fynbos exported to Europe, Asia, Russia and many other global markets. That also shows the importance of sustainably managing the fynbos industry, and supporting research and monitoring to better understand the effects of harvesting fynbos species.

Flower Valley’s Sustainable Harvesting Programme was launched to support responsible action in the fynbos sector. Supported by the WWF-SA Nedbank Green Trust and the European Union, Flower Valley has been working with landowners and harvesters across an area of 75,000 hectares in the Cape Floral Kingdom, encouraging environmental best practice, and social and labour compliance.

To read the full article in Business Day, click here.