Visitors to the reserve this winter will undoubtedly notice that the lowest part of the reserve has recently burned. This fire was a controlled burn that took place on 14 June 2021 as part of the ongoing management of the reserve. This area, between the reserve’s self-catering chalets and the municipal road, escaped the last time the rest of the reserve burned in January 2012, when a wildfire spread along the eastern Klein River Mountains. As a result, this lower area had not burned for about 20 years.
It is important for fynbos to burn. Usually this occurs on a cycle of between 10-20 years. If fynbos does not burn, it goes into decline (becomes “moribund”), with older plants starting to die and species not associated with fynbos beginning to infiltrate. Furthermore, this particular area has had an ongoing cycle of clearing alien vegetation, such as pines, hakea and Port Jackson. This clearing work increases the fuel-load (old dry wood) in the area, which as a result had become unacceptably high. If this area had burned when the next wildfire came through, it would have been a very hot fire, with large flames. That, in combination with the strong winds that often accompany a wildfire, would have put the properties at severe risk.
As a result, we took the decision this year to burn this area during a cooler time of the year and under controlled conditions. The aim of this burn was both to renew the fynbos and to help protect the properties when the next wildfire does occur. Although this area will look black for the next few months, we are looking forward to watching the fynbos recover. In particular, we hope to see flowers appear in this part of the reserve that have not been observed here before, as they are only associated with post-burn. We trust you too will appreciate seeing how this develops and how fire is an essential part of the beauty and diversity of the fynbos that Phillipskop helps to protect. Do follow us on Facebook (Phillipskop), Instagram (PhillipskopSA) and Twitter (PhillipskopSA) as we post up some of these interesting sightings.
Please note: none of the various hiking trails at Phillipskop have been affected by this burn and you can continue to enjoy the mature fynbos on the majority of the reserve.