In between the houses of Casablanca, a
suburb of Gordonís Bay, is Harmony Flats Nature Reserve. This tiny nine hectare reserve
was proclaimed in 1986 to protect the
Critically Endangered Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus).
The nature reserve failed to protect the
tortoises because people kept damaging the reserve fence. In the early
1990s, the remaining tortoises were removed and taken to Tygerberg Zoo
for protection. Unfortunately, they were stolen almost immediately!
Even without the tortoises, Harmony Flats
is worth conserving. It is one of the last remaining areas of a
special kind of Fynbos called Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos. This is the
most threatened type of vegetation in South Africa.
In spring, Harmony Flats is a wonderland
of flowers. People have recorded 218 different indigenous plants
growing on this tiny site, including daisies, vygies, orchids,
babianas, gladioli and viooltjies.
plant species at Harmony Flats are threatened with extinction,
Vulnerable Langsteel Vygie (Lampranthus filicaulis)
and Witskollie Protea (Protea scolymocephala), and the
Endangered conebush (Leucadendron lanigerum var. lanigerum).
After the tortoises were removed, the
reserve was neglected for many years. The plants and animals living
there were threatened by invasive alien plants, litter and frequent
In 2002 Luzann Hendricks, a nature
conservation student, started working at Harmony Flats. She encouraged
the residents to share what they knew about the useful plants on the
site, and in turn she shared her scientific knowledge of plants.
Local residents formed the
Flats Working Group. They learned more about the plants and animals in
the nature reserve and worked with the City to remove alien plants,
clean up the litter, fight fires and develop Arbor Week programmes for
The people living close to Harmony Flats
have been working with organisations like
CREW and Cape
Flats Nature to find out more about the special
plants growing in their backyards.