21 C
Mossel Bay
3rd Oct 2023
Nature & Nurture

Fire Lilies

Back in the early days when the road over the hill to Reebok was a rutted, sandy track that on occasion required chains on the tires, you could smell the fynbos and the sea, and there was always lots of buck spoor. We would pile out of the car at our property, careful to stay on the little paths or to be wearing shoes because ‘duwweltjies’ thorns were a guarantee. There was no ‘garden’, just scrubby bush and an area of rough grass that was hacked shorter before our arrival by the resident caretaker of the area, Mr Kok.
Despite this wildness there was an anxiously awaited thing of beauty in the bottom corner of the plot, and it’s still there decades later! A little colony of Cyrtanthus angustifolius or Fire lilies. As the common name suggests they respond to fire and flower best after a burn, so we always considered ourselves very fortunate that these gems flowered year after year in the absence of fire and with total neglect. That area of the garden hasn’t been disturbed, except for an occasional mow, in all the years since my grandparents bought the property in the 1920’s and it was my grandmother’s delight to watch and wait hoping the lilies would flower during our Christmas holiday. Although they flower between October and May she was seldom disappointed.
These beautiful red flowers used to be relatively common in the area between Mossel Bay and Humansdorp on grassy flats and open hillsides but cultivation and housing has put paid to most of them.

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