Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Kirstenbosch is a national botanical garden that's located on Table Mountain's eastern slopes. Kirstenbosch is one of South Africa's eight national gardens. It contains plants from 5 of South Africa's 8 biomes, ie, areas with vegetation and animals that are specific to that environment.
The 528-hectare garden is one of the most well-known South African tourist attractions and contains aplenty of the national flower, the King Protea. There are also many birds species and small mammals; the Cape Fox, sugarbirds, the Cape Otter, and guinea fowls. The garden comprises 6 sections: General garden, Walk on the wild side, People and plants, Forest and veld, Fynbos walk and The dell.
This is the world's first botanical garden to focus on using indigenous plants; the garden contains more than 22 000 plants that are indigenous to South Africa.
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Jan van Riebeeck decided to protect the Kapenaars' farms from the Hottentot who were raiding the cattle. He specified that his workers use wild almond and bramble to form the boundary that we now call Van Riebeeck's hedge. This section of the forest was used to harvest timber for the early inhabitants of the Cape colony.
A few different families owned the land on which Kirstenbosch sits today. Cecil John Rhodes bought the land from the Cloete family in 1895 and the land soon became run-down. Cecil John Rhodes died in 1902 and bequeathed the land to the South African public.
Henry Harold Pearson, a Cambridge botanist, joined The South African College, UCT’s predecessor, in 1903. He suggested the forming of a South African Botanic Garden and selected the Kirstenbosch area, which had lain in disuse, for this purpose. The Botanical Society formed Kirstenbosch Gardens with a yearly grant from the government in 1913. The society's focus was to preserve the area for all South Africans and the garden has become one of the most well-known botanical gardens in the world.
Stuff to do
The Silver Tree restaurant is well worth a visit: it has a view of the mountain. The Kirstenbosch summer sunset concerts start in late November. Various South African artists do their thing in front of captive audiences. The revelry continues until early the following April and it's followed by the Kirstenbosch winter concert series that runs from May to October.
The Botanical society has a full programme that caters especially to schoolchildren. The children learn about Kirstenbosch' history, the plants that grow there, as well as what biodiversity is. Kirstenbosch also hosts the 'Winter wonders' festival during the winter school holiday and children get free entrance.
The area in which Kirstenbosch is situated used to be part of De Schuur, the VOC's granary. No-one knows the origins of the garden's name; however, it is likely that we can attribute it to JF Kirsten, the land manager in the 1700s.