Discover the astounding biodiversity hidden in the Cape Flats

 
 
 

The Cape Flats Erica stands tall and graceful, its pink, tubular flowers spiraling around its strong stem. It’s only found in the Cape Flats, and forms an integral part of the landscape. But by the 1950s, it had practically disappeared and was believed to be extinct. That is, until single hardy specimens were found again in Pretoria, Kirstenbosch, and even Austria. A global effort began to bring Erica verticillata back to the Flats. Dalton Gibbs has been essential to that effort.

Gibbs worked for years to get the flower back to its home as the regional manager for biodiversity management in the south of Cape Town. While it’s still classified as extinct in the wild, it has at least returned to its rightful place. “It’s like that ‘aha’ moment when you’re doing a jigsaw puzzle,” Gibbs says. The plant was the final missing piece, without which the wider picture is incomplete.

Gibbs is helping younger generations piece the puzzle together to understand and appreciate their environment. He is a trustee with the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust, an NPO that runs conservation camps and programmes, and provides bursaries to those pursuing conservation at higher levels of education. Love for nature is cultivated at a young age, as it was for Gibbs. That love inspires the need to protect and conserve our environment. “We have a truly astounding piece of natural biodiversity that is of international importance, and that is ingrained in the cultural fabric of this city,” Gibbs says. “It’s part of who we are, and we should take note of it, we should celebrate it.”