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AGS South Africa 2022 Tour

The AGS South Africa Tour will be led by Callan Cohen & Mayur Prag
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The Cape Floral Kingdom is renowned for its floral diversity, particularly in its geophytes and succulent flora. This tour will cover a large swathe of this biodiverse area at the height of spring, targeting a wide range of habitats with many endemic and localised species. Starting at the metropolis of Cape Town, we will head up the bulb rich West Coast before heading inland into the arid Knersvlakte, arriving at one of the most diverse areas for bulbs in the world – Nieuwoudtville. Following the escarpment along, we will explore the rich Roggeveld area, most famous for Daubenya aurea, and finally make our way back through the bulb-rich winelands near Ceres and Tulbagh. The focus will be on the special flora, although we will encounter many endemic birds and some mammals over the wide range of habitats this tour covers.

Our tour begins with a visit the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the slopes of the biodiverse Table Mountain after arriving in the beautiful city of Cape Town. The horticultural collection transitions into natural flora extending up the mountain with the peninsula endemic, Leucadendron argenteum being the star of the show. We should have close views of the endemic Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird, both important pollinators of many Protea and Erica species. The following morning will see us travelling through the sandy coastal plains of the West Coast before arriving at the small town of Darling, rich in spectacular endemic bulbs including the localized Geissorhiza radians and similarly striking Babiana rubrocyanea. We have the rest of the next day to explore the West Coast National Park which should be covered in flashy Asteraceae displays as well as harbouring interesting endemics in the mix of coastal sands and granite outcrops that surround the large lagoon. This is also our best chance to encounter several antelope species including the graceful Bontebok and imposing Eland. The park supports a diversity of avifauna including the endangered Black Harrier and striking Southern Black Korhaan.

Heading inland, we will travel via the unique quartz strewn Knersvlakte with its diversity of succulents before heading up the escarpment to the Bokkeveld Plateau, and the town of Nieuwoudtville, widely regarded as the bulb capital of the world. The dolerite and sandstone soils surrounding the town host over 300 bulb species, many from of the Iridaceae family. We have two full days to explore the areas around the town where tall yellow Bulbinella nutans dominate the fields among many species of Lachenalia, Nemesia, Moraea, Romulea, Ixia and Geissorhiza. Another highlight just outside of town is a hillside of spectacular large Quiver Trees (Aloidendron dichotomum).

Following the escarpment around the top of the Tankwa Karoo, we reach the town of Calvinia, exploring the arid hills for endemic succulents and bulbs. We’ll then head to the Roggeveld escarpment, a major focus of the tour, which is timed to search for the incomparable Daubenya aurea, as well as a host of at least five local Romuleas (including R. unifolia and R. subfistulosa!) and other localized species.

Having had our fill of the spectacular bulbs of the Roggeveld, we head to the mountainous Koue Bokkeveld, rich in orchids and many more Iridaceae including the spectacular Moraea villosa, Moraea galaxia, Gladiolus recurvus, Gladiolus hyalinus and more! Orchids could include Batholina burmanniana, Disa biflora, Satyrium coriifolium among others. The following full day we will continue to explore sites around the area including those in the Tulbagh valley, where many localized endemics can be found. Our last day will be spent heading back to Cape Town in time for our flights in the evening, stopping at a couple sites along the way for even more localized species.

Tour Leaders: Callan Cohen & Mayur Prag

Callan Cohen has led two previous AGS tours to South Africa and has been organizing and leading flora, birding and butterfly tours for over 20 years. When not tour leading, he often explores new sites looking for special flora of interest, including Iridaceae and Orchids and other species of interest, often with Mayur Prag. Callan has a strong interest in pollination biology and discovered a whole new syndrome of orchid pollination.

Mayur Prag has been leading tours and doing botanical exploration with Callan for over five years. He spends many weekends exploring botanical hotspots around his home town of Cape Town, although he is currently spending part of the year in Oxford completing his PhD. His knowledge of the sites and ability to find tricky orchids and Iridaceae in the field is exceptional, and he is very talented at helping people to take really striking photos. Mayur is also an excellent birder with an all-round natural history knowledge.

AGS South Africa Tour

Romulea komsbergensis

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