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800th fynbos species recorded by our Grootbos Foundation conservation team

Disa lugens – A vulnerable orchid and the 800th species to be recorded on Grootbos

At the Grootbos Foundation, our focus has always been on the little things. It all started 20 years ago, back in 1997, when we started documenting the unique floral diversity of our reserve. Nestled in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a region known for its exceptional biodiversity, we expected to find high species numbers. But what has unfolded over the last 20 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Through a detailed plant survey that has covered every part of the reserve in all seasons and all post-fire stages; we have gradually unravelled the complexity of this exceptional botanical jewel box. From the very beginning we have photographed and collected specimens which are housed in our herbarium on Grootbos.

Over the years a number of rare and threatened species have been discovered, many of which are very localised. For these species, Grootbos provides a home and a ‘safe haven’, protecting them from the spread of alien vegetation, agricultural expansion and other harmful human activities.

Through our survey we have discovered six new species for science and many important range extensions for rare and threatened species. Back in 1997, our original estimation was Grootbos would be home to approximately 400 species.

This week, one of our guides found this beautiful orchid growing on a sandy firebreak in the reserve. We have identified it as Disa lugens, a vulnerable species of orchid which is becoming increasingly rare due to habitat destruction. What made this find extra special is that it was our 800th species to be recorded on Grootbos.

Fynbos is full of wonderful surprises. We would have never had expected to reach double the original estimate of species on our reserve and it really is a case of the more you look; the more you find. We have stopped trying to guess how many species there are on Grootbos, we know there are plenty more surprises still to come.

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