21 April 2020

27 February 2020

Restoration plans for the Common

Roger Graham, Chairman of the Friends of Meadowridge Common, with speaker, Dr Charmaine Oxtoby.
At the  AGM of the Friends of Meadowridge Common on 24 February 2020, Dr Charmaine Oxtoby gave a talk on the proposed ecological burn on Meadowridge Common, an exciting plan to restore the critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos that is fast dying out on the Common. This is a co-operative venture involving The Friends of Meadowridge Common (represented by the Chairman Roger Graham and Botanical Officer Fiona Watson), the City of Cape Town Recreation & Parks Department (Sihle Jonas, Luyanda Mjuleni and Fay Howa),  the City of Cape Town Biodiversity Management Branch (Charmaine Oxtoby and her team), SANBI’s  Millennium Seed Bank  and the City Fire and Rescue Services.

Why does the Common need a fire? 
There is just 10% left of the critically endangered veld type, Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, that only occurs in Cape Town and nowhere else. Like all fynbos – which is fire-prone and fire-dependent – it needs to burn otherwise it will gradually die. The ideal time for a burn is every ten to twelve years. Meadowridge Common contains a small remnant (5,39 hectares) of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos where some 137 different plant species have been recorded. The Common is a Biodiversity Agreement Site, but it is degraded due to a long history of pines and lack of fire – apart from a small wildfire in December 2003. After years of motivating for a fire, the time has finally come and a restoration burn has been planned.

The objective of this planned ecological burn is to stimulate the fynbos seed bank. Because of the long history of pines growing on the common (over 60 years now), and a 16 year time lapse since the last fire, much of the native seed bank may have lost viability as it tends to do after 30 years. So some active restoration of fynbos plants that would have once occurred here will also need to happen.

23 January 2020

Fire on the Common

The proposed burn area on the left of the path.

Why is Meadowridge Common important?
Cape Flats Sand Fynbos is a critically endangered veld type – only 11% remains in a natural state and only 1% is formally conserved. There are some patches where the natural Cape Flats Sand Fynbos still occurs in a degraded state, but with the potential to be restored. As our national conservation target is to have 30% of each veld type conserved, every bit counts. One such valuable patch is Meadowridge Common. In the heart of suburbia, it is a small natural remnant of what was Bergvliet Farm where William Purcell amassed his impressive collection of plants and animals that forms the basis of our knowledge of what used to occur in Cape Flats Sand Fynbos before urbanization destroyed most of it.

How can fynbos be restored on the Common?
Fynbos evolved to take advantage of fire and is now dependant on fairly frequent fires to trigger growth mechanisms and recycle nutrients in order for it to thrive. But fires don’t happen often in suburbia, and fynbos expert, Tony Rebelo, described Meadowridge Common as “the living dead” because without fire to stimulate new growth, it was slowly dying. The huge variety of species that have been growing there for decades, surprising visitors and scientists alike, will gradually die and disappear under introduced trees, invasive weeds and rank grass. A chance fire on the Common a few years ago caused by vagrants and quickly extinguished, revealed that there was still life in the soil. In the years that followed, bulbs appeared and bushes re-sprouted, seedlings took off and there was a burst of life in the burned area, spurring the Friends of Meadowridge Common to request that the City of Cape Town Biodiversity Management Branch undertake a controlled ecological burn of the Common.

28 October 2019

Restoring Meadowridge Common

The Friends of Meadowridge Common will be hosting a talk on Monday 11 November 2019 in the Meadowridge Library Hall, Howard Drive at 19h30.
Dr Charmaine Oxtoby, City of Cape Town's Biophysical Specialist, will be talking on Restoring the north-western corner of Meadowridge Common Conservation Area using an ecological burn. This conservation management project, planned for early 2020, is a collaboration between the Friends of Meadowridge Common, SANBI and the City of Cape Town Recreation & Parks Dept and Biodiversity Management Branch.
Secure parking is available at the library.
Refreshments will be served.
All welcome.
For more information, please contact the Chairman of the Friends, Roger Graham, on 021 715 9206.

15 May 2019

Cape Town wins the iNaturalist City Nature Challenge 2019!

Friends of Meadowridge Common Committee member, Charmaine Oxtoby (second from left) was  part of the City of Cape Town Biodiversity team that organized the Cape Town 2019 City Nature Challenge. Well done to the team and to all participants. 

01 April 2019

iNaturalist City Nature Challenge 2019

This year the City of Cape Town will be participating in the City Nature Challenge from 26-29 April 2019. To win across the board we just need 50,000 observations, 3,500 species and 2,000 observers! The 3 500 species should be the easiest. We are the Mother City, the Biodiversity Capital of the World. With 3700 indigenous plant species this should be a cake. But it is autumn – no annuals, few bulbs, nothing flowering: well we don’t want to embarrass everyone else. But it does mean we are going to have to hunt down our species, and the pics are going to have to be good to make an ID. So please start drawing up your target list and planning your four day’s activities. Don’t forget aliens, and insects, and fungi and our marine life! They all count: just no selfies, dogs or cats! And don’t worry about duplication. The game is to take them again if you see them after 500 m. This is about data for monitoring: where do our species occur?

02 March 2019

Guilt-free gardening

Cherise Viljoen’s suggestions on how to garden in the drought and how to recognize a plant that is designed by nature to survive our long hot summer climate (wind, lack of water, harsh sun)

Choose slower growing, more long lived, hardier evergreens and try avoid soft, thirsty annuals & perennials

Select those plants naturally geared to survive drought:
 - silver, grey foliage: reflects the heat
 - upright, narrow, small leaves or no leaves at all: all if which reduces contact with the hot sun and so stay cooler- reducing their water-loss though evaporation
 - hairy, waxy, firm-structured, aromatic: all designed to also reduce water-loss from the plant
 - succulent: have their own reservoirs of water supply
 - have more underground plant parts and storage organs- like bulbs: Hide from the sun and wind and so reduce water-loss
 - deciduous in summer: grow when the weather is cooler and wetter, sleep when conditions are unfavourable