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Se7en + 1 Meet the Dinosaurs Amongst the Cycads at Kirstenbosch…

June 17th, 2015 · 12 Comments

Winter is here, and the one place that is often overlooked as a great spot to visit over the winter vacation is Kirstenbosch Gardens and yet the winter time is when they always launch new and exciting things… This year is no different. Not to mention that in-between the rainy spells there is heaps of glorious sunshine.

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At the top of Kirstenbosch Gardens is a well protected collection of an endangered species, the Cycad collection. These plants were carefully planted here over a hundred years ago… in a sunny spots on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. The gardens have introduced some new and incredible works of art. An amazing collection of life-size dinosaurs have arrived to wander through the cycads. On any given day one can imagine these monstrous beasts roaming through these ancient plants… now those “imaginings” can become much more of a reality. Dinosaurs to raise awareness of the plight of the cycad collection at Kirstenbosch have arrived…

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Dinosaur artworks by Zimbabwean artist, David Huni, have been placed amongst the cycad collection. Both dinosaurs and cycads are living things from olden times. Dinosaurs no longer roam the earth, wouldn’t it be a pity if our children or our children’s children didn’t get to see cycads either.

Let’s Meet the Cycads

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Cycads are palm-like, cone bearing plants, that are often called living fossils. They are called living fossils because when you compare these plants to fossil records they appear to be unchanged. They appear to have descended from ancient trees indeed. Cycads enjoy sunshine, and rocky soil… they are in the perfect spot and protected here. In the wild these popular plants have been gathered to sell to high paying collectors and their numbers have dwindled to very close to extinction. They are protected in South Africa Law, but hardened criminals continue to poach and steal them away from their natural habitat.

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Let’s Meet the Dinosaurs

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Each dinosaur comes with it’s own board describing what folk know about them.

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They fly through the air…

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And lurk in the undergrowth…

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There is plenty of life-size detail…

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Because these beasts, let’s face it, are larger than life…

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Let’s Go a Little Closer

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A Thundering Storm

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Our first meeting with these guys was on the day of a torrential rain storm… imagine the entire garden empty of people and arriving, more than little sodden, amongst the cycads and this huge dinosaurs emerging out of the rain and mist…

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Quite an experience, I dare say…

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Making unforgettable memories…

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Who could never forget this…

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Let’s Meet the People

Because the day of the launch of these dinosaurs was such an incredibly wild and stormy day we were treated to a series of talks by all the important players in the cycad project… I think they were hoping the rain would pass… it didn’t and instead we were able to learn so much about these incredible plants and the protection of them.

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Phakamani is responsible for the cycad collection at Kirstenbsch, “Cycads are the most threatened living organisms on the planet right now. They are very slow growing plants and even with protection in nurseries and seed planting, their numbers may never recover.”

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Wynand from the Cycad Society, “We all want cycads to be free to grow in the wild and we are doing our best to partner with conservation groups to protect them.”

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Michelle, a scientific expert, “It is illegal to trade with cycads from the wild and folk need to be deterred from going into the wild and harvesting them. The plants are protected with micro chips… and it is fairly easy to identify if domestic plants have been removed from the wild. A first offence is five years in jail and a 5 million rand fine. While small time poachers are arrested, this is a very organised crime and the main players remain unaffected by the legal system.”

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Simon, a cycad professor, “This is a global project and we need a global assessment. The biggest threats to cycads are habitat loss and over collecting. Unfortunately cycads flourish in very specific areas and “they can’t run away,” so they are very easy to harvest. At this stage we should be thinking, perhaps we should be protecting them in nurseries, for future generations.”

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Chris from Micro-ID, “They are now tagging cycads with a microdot spray, that has a fire resistant adhesive within it. There are 25000 dots per can and they are just too difficult for criminals to remove all of them from a given plant. Each dot has a tracking number that can be seen with a hand-held microscope… this way plants can be tracked back to their source. Signage in the area, mentioning that the plants are protected by microdot have proved to be good deterrents against poachers.”

Other Natural Factuals…

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Because our first encounter with the dinosaurs was such an inclement one, we decided to return on a sunnier day to get more photographs for you. And this is why Kirstenbosch is a great place to visit… any season of the year.

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We were able to find the crabs looking for a sunny spot…

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A wasp, dragging a giant spider home for dinner…

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A snake catching the sun in the grass…

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And this fellow…

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Clearly there is a lot to see on any visit to Kirstenbosch and hopefully this beautifully created collection of dinosaurs will raise awareness of the plight of the cycad collection.

We would like to think Hippo Communications and Kirstenbosch Gardens for the invitation to the launch of the Dinosaur Exhibition. This is not a sponsored post and the opinions are as usual our own.

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Tags: Cape Town · Outings

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Christi {Jealous Hands} // Jun 17, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Amazing! What a place to visit!

  • 2 Zoe // Jun 18, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Looks like a great day out!
    Zoe´s last blog post ..Eddie’s Tent and How to Go Camping

  • 3 tami // Jun 18, 2015 at 9:19 am

    You saw so many snakes! I’m clearly not looking in the right places because I have never seen snakes in Kirstenbosch. Those dinos look awesome and I think we have to make a plan to take the kids soon. Now to find a sunny day in Cape Town when I’m not at work! 😉 xx

  • 4 se7en // Jun 18, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Hay Christi, Our Botanical Gardens are an incredible place to visit… especially with kids. So much to see and do, a little piece of heaven!!!

  • 5 Cat@jugglingact // Jun 18, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Those dinos are fantastic! Have you ever been or do you know of the Modjadj cycad forest? It has huge huge cycads – meters and meters tall. It is amazing to see cycads that are a few stories high. Magical magical place. Near Tzaneen in Limpopo.
    Cat@jugglingact´s last blog post ..I know I have said it before but honestly I am so thankful it’s Friday.

  • 6 se7en // Jun 18, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Tami, it was our lucky day – it is the season for sluggishly cold snakes to drag themselves into the sunshine to get warm. We walked past a mole snake and when we returned the cobra was there… perhaps the cobra was chasing the mole snake… anyway my guys were thrilled to spot one in real life!!! I am sure there will be sunny days in the holidays – your guys will love the dinosaurs!!!

  • 7 se7en // Jun 18, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Oh Cat, that sounds magnificent – I have never been to Limpopo… Wouldn’t it be too wonderful to do a massive road trip… stopping and seeing all the amazing things that this wonderful country has to offer!!!

  • 8 se7en // Jun 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Oh Zoe… you and yours would love this place… Kirstenbosch is a collection of so many different and wonderful gardens all leading on from one another… a truly magical place where adventures and magical picnics abound!!!

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