Hout Bay falls into the Table Mountain National Park. This information is therefore on a more broader base than just Hout Bay.
(With gratitude to the TMNP).
The Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) is rich in floral biodiversity and is part of the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site. The most common vegetation type in the TMNP is fynbos (meaning fine bush).
Fynbos consists of four major plant groups –
- Proteas – large shrubs with broad leaves
- Erica’s – heath-like, low growing shrubs
- Restios – read-like plants – are the only group that are found in all fynbos habitats and as such are called
- Geophytes – bulbs – these include watsonias and disa’s both of which occur mainly in wetland areas and are prominent after fires.
An ancient vegetation, fynbos has developed over millions of years with restios dating as far back as 60 million years.
It has a high level of endemism, which is when a specific plant occurs nowhere else on earth. A species is only endemic to an area of only a few kilometres.
Fynbos is a fire dependent vegetation. This means it has to burn approximately every 15 years to stimulate new growth and ensure that plant and animal communities remain healthy. Fires which would be beneficial to the biodiversity of the area are often extinguished because of the danger posed to the human settlements in close proximity. Should fynbos not burn every 20 to 30 years it will be come moribund and vigorous plant species will compete with others, which which may lead to the extinction of some species.
On the other hand certain areas of the Park experience fire too frequently due to human intervention. This can be destructive to the ecosystem. When young fynbos which is not yet seed-bearing burns, seed banks are depleted changing the diversity of plant species in the area.
Renosterveld (rhinoceros field) found on the slopes of Signal Hill and in patches on Devil’s Peak, is rich in geophytes and is also characterised by small shrubs such as erica's and grasses. The renosterveld has been hard hit by too-frequent fires - a result of human activity.
There is no real indication of the expanse of Afromontane Forest on the Peninsula in pre-colonial times. Today only small pockets remain in the TMNP due to large settlement swathes being cut within 50 years of European settlement.
Afromontane Forest usually occurs below 800m and requires good rainfall and nutrient rich soil. Primarily in kloofs on the slopes of Table Mountain today, it does occur as far south as the Cape of Good Hope. Consisting of medium-height (15m-20m) evergreen trees, it is not very rich in diversity and consists of around 33 species.
Due to the density of the forest canopy only a few other plants, such as ferns, are found in the forest but there is a profusion of algae’s and mosses.
The majority of animals in the forests are of the reptilian, invertebrate (insect) or avian persuasion although you can see rooikat and smaller antelope such as steenbok.