Chapter four
Orchids and fire

Most Cape orchids remain dormant for long periods, and it is only after their habitat is burnt, sometimes as occasionally as once every 20 years, that they appear fleetingly in bloom. Many of these fire-dependent species are therefore rarely seen, and their natural history and distribution have remained poorly documented.

As with the legendary Phoenix rising from the ashes, the renewal of life after fire is a quintessential and spectacular part of the ecology in the Cape Floristic Region—this recurring theme is integral throughout the work. While most people are dismayed and fearful of wild-fires, we tended to welcome the prospect of discovering long-unseen orchids after recent fires. Burns in late summer precipitated a process of planning of botanical excursions to charred plains and mountains far and wide in the forthcoming spring. This fire fascination was instrumental in the discovery of many of the Cape’s most obscure orchid treasures . . .
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
Fire is integral to fynbos ecology. Olifantsbos, Cape Peninsula (6 April 2007) Mountain marsh near Palmiet River mouth in the first summer after fire (26 November 1991)
From the Fire chapter