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Beach flora of South Africa | A virtual tour Part 1

Published on December 17th 2020

by Going.Local. All rights reserved

A rocky beach
Sun, sea and white beaches… But where are the plants? Why is there a mangrove forest on some beaches and dry grass on others? In this virtual tour, we will take a look at a couple of sandy strips from arid to semi-tropical across Southern Africa.
How do they differ and what to look out for when you take a stroll among the dunes. We start off with the semi-tropical beaches bordering Mozambique and work our way along the coast as we discover new and wonderful flora.
vine on tree

St. Lucia (Kwazulu Natal)

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park and St Lucia beach are two of South Africa's biggest attractions. The high humidity, rainfall and warm waters are ideal for tropical species. Set at the mouth of the Saint Lucia river, it shares several characteristics with its namesake Saint Lucia (an island in the Caribbean).
The small village forms a semi-island with the river on one side and the Indian Ocean to the other. The river is home to mangrove species such as Avicennia marina, Swamp Fig and crawling Beach Morning Glory with its bright blooms.
Things to look out for:

Eulophia speciosa

Eulophia speciosa

Beach Morning Glory

Ipomoea pes-caprae ssp. brasiliensis

Swamp Fig

Ficus trichopoda

Pergularia daemia ssp. daemia
Canavalia rosea
beach flora
Flora around East London is breathtaking, no matter if it is Nahoon, Beacon Bay or Gonubie.

Nahoon beach (East London)

Nahoon is one of the most popular beaches in East London and naturally has seen its fair share of human disturbance, yet several beautiful floral species call it home. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might just come across the beautiful Hoya-like blooms of Cynanchum natalensis twining its way through the shrubs.
Smell some jasmine as you walk down the beach? It is most likely Carissa bispinosa in flower. You might also bypass the Red Milkwood trees, but spare a glance for their star-like blooms and red-berried. It is quite unlike the White Milkwood of Cape Town.
Things to look out for:
Cyrtanthus loddigesianus
Plettenberg bay robberg

Plettenberg Bay (Western Cape)

One long uninterrupted sandy beach that has transformed over the years is Plettenberg bay. Unfortunately, a large amount of construction on the 1st and 2nd dunes have left the main beach poorer in terms of flora, but the nature reserves still hold a multitude of breathtaking specimens to observe.
The peninsula, home to two archaeological dig sites, has been inhabited by humans for millennia and is an important part of the continent's history. It has a great selection of coastal succulents, bright yellow gazania's and flowering bulbs that turn the isle red.
For more on the fynbos of the region see:
Things to look out for:
beach gazania

Best Time to visit

The weather along the coast tends to be very unpredictable and should be taken into account if a short visit is planned. Saint Lucia falls within a summer (December-February) rainfall area, whilst Plettenberg Bay has rainfall year-round with slightly more during winter.
Nearest airport: Several smaller airfields surround St Lucia, but the closest city is Durban (2h 40m one-way), both East London and Plettenberg Bay have airstrips.
Important info: St. Lucia village is small and booking accommodation is essential.
Weather: Saint Lucia has seen unprecedented rainfall spikes during the past 2 years, therefore, it is best to check before booking a trip.
brunsvigia cliff
Brunsvigia in bloom on Robberg in Plettenberg Bay.

Share your trips with us! Seen anything unusual along this stretch of coast? Let us know in the comments.

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