Updated: Sep 6, 2022
Every year in August and September, visitors to the Western Cape are treated to a spectacular sight: expansive carpets of brightly coloured wildflowers.
The annual flower season takes place on the cusp of spring. Some parts of the regions' nature reserves are protected throughout the year and only open to visitors during flower season.
The Cederberg region, where Rooibos is farmed, offers some of the best flower-watching sites and hosts a yearly flower festival. People come from far and wide to see the flowers, providing a valuable boost to the local economies of rural towns.
It is a spectacular display of the area's biodiversity. The Cape Flower Route hosts over 4000 different flower species, from daisies to bulb plants. 25% of Africa's plant species can be found in the Cape Floral Kingdom.
The flowering of the flowers is brought about by the changes in temperature and rainfall, which means it is a phenological event.
Unfortunately, it is also an event highly sensitive to climate change. In the semi-desert of the Namaqualand, home to the northernmost part of the Rooibos farming region, the flowering of Namaqualand daisies attracts close to 10 000 visitors a year.
But a recent study tracking flower seasons since 1935, mostly through newspaper articles, found that the Namaqualand daisies have been flowering earlier and earlier in recent years because of changes in climate patterns.
The negative impact of climate change on the Rooibos farming region's biodiversity, and how that will in turn impact the local economy, warrants urgent action. A holistic approach toward sustainable farming and reduced carbon emissions is vital to the future of the Rooibos industry and other industries in the Western Cape.