12 March 2024

Flower watching in the Drakensberg!

flowers of the drakensberg

The imposing ramparts of the great Drakensberg mountains and the foothills with streams, forests, and vast grasslands attract hikers, mountaineers, birders, and fishermen.

All of them notice the beautiful wildflowers but they would need to slow down a little to take in the extraordinary diversity and fascination of this world of plants.

Throughout the summer, there are botanical treasures to see, from the foothills to the top of the escarpment, on the sandstone-derived soils and cliffs, to the basalt of the highest parts.

Through grasslands, Protea savanna, sandstone cliffs, high altitude grasslands, basalt cliffs, and summit heathlands, there will be lots to see throughout the long summer months, into autumn. Midwinter, June to August/September, is the dry cold season before plants come back to life.

The best time to view Drakensberg flowers

With books and a camera (or cell phone) in hand, it is possible to track down and identify many of the wonderful plants.

Take it slowly and you can take in the impressive scenery whilst working on it. The slower pace will allow you to see the birds and butterflies and bees which are attracted to the flowers.

Flowering in spring will depend on the first rains. The best displays at the foot of the mountains are from October to December, whereas the best time at the highest altitudes is from December to March. But there will be flowers throughout the summer.

In the Drakensberg, the montane belt or ‘little berg’ – from 1 280m to 1 830m, where the montane forests are found, has long ridges running out from the escarpment, intersected by streams and rivers. The Subalpine belt at 1 830m to 2 865m, rises to the alpine belt on the summit at 2 865m to 3 400m.

Aspect and altitude influence where plants grow, so the vegetation can change from valley to valley, as you walk. The trick is not to walk too fast. Allow time to stop and look at the flowers and trees.

“The smallest flower in the smallest cranny of the precipice is as much a part of the unique berg experience as the achievement of its tallest peaks.” (Quote by Jack Crutchley, 2003).

The high mountains of the Drakensberg and Lesotho have an exceptionally high number of endemic plant species – found there and nowhere else in the world.

It features as a botanical ‘hot spot’ in African terms which means that many of the plants you will see cannot be seen anywhere else.

Some of the more popular flowers in the Drakensberg

  • Article written by Elsa Pooley and first published in the first edition of The Drakensberg Magazine 2023. Download your copy!