Although Tsitsikamma boasts a magical world of intertidal life and reefs in its marine part, there is also the famous terrestrial part of the park with its lush forest, delicate fynbos and sheer cliffs. One of the most conspicious trees is the Outeniqua yellow-wood, Podocarpus falcata.
The vegetation of the Wilderness Area can be divided into three major components: Terrestrial vegetation, which includes indigenous forests, plantations and coastal fynbos.
Three major zones of indigenous forest are:
- Wet mountain forest – occurring in steep kloofs consisting of typical Afro-montain species plateau forest and - occurs on the coastal plateau and includes typical Afro-montain species dry forest – occurs predominantly in steeply insized plateau valleys and along the coast.
- Large sections of indigenous forests remain particularly in the Karatara River, Duiwe River and Touw River. A small catchment of indigenous forest lies within the boundaries of the Wilderness National Park.
- Large portions of the river catchments are under pine and eucalypt plantations, or are utilized as agricultural land.
Four types of fynbos found in the area include:
- Short Asteraceae fynbos, occurring mainly on the seaward slopes of primary dunes and other slopes adjacent to the sea.
- Tall fynbos – occurs primarily on more inland dunes and north facing slopes, consisting of fynbos shrubs and small patches of forest trees of the Kaffrarian ticket.
- Passerina/annual herbs are restricted to land adjacent to the lakes and Serpentine channel. Passerina spp. Are dominant, with a large number of fynbos annual herbs recorded.
- Restoid/grassy dunes are largely restricted to the Rondevlei area and consist mostly of true fynbos elements.
The latter is well represented in the Wilderness National Park, with the area between Rondevlei and Swartvlei Lake supporting this vegetation type.
Semi-aquatic flora of low- lying areas adjacent to the lakes and channels, which is normally inundated at high water levels.
The most widespread semi-aquatic species include reeds (phragmites australis), sedges (Scirpus littoralis, scirpus nodosus and Cyperaceae generally) and bulrushes (Typha latifolia) with the rush juncus kraussii occupying a transitional zone between the semi-aquatic and terrestrial environments, which is inundated only during very high water levels.
Other semi-aquatic species on floodplain area include the grasses paspalum vaginatum and pennisetum clandestinum with the intertidal saltmarsh areas in Swartvlei being colonized predominantly by Sarcocornia natalensis, Salicornia meyerana, Triglochin striata, Cotula coronopifolia and Stenotphrum secundatum.
Aquatic plants of channels and lakes
One of the most striking features of the waterbodies of the Wilderness National Park is the presence of extensive tracts of submerged aquatic plants. These plants occur in monospecific and mixed stands, of which the most abundant and widespread include members of the family Characeae (Chara globuaris, Lamprothamnium papulosum), the “pondweed” (Potamogeton pectinatus), seagrass (Ruppia cirrhosa), and epiphytic algae.
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Did You Know?
- The Wilderness section of the GRNP has a Ramsar site (wetland of global significance). It has the potential to conserve whole ecosystems from catchments to sea.