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Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Cape Town

 Camphor Avenue

Camphor Avenue Kirstenbosch Gardens

The land occupied by Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens was previously farmland.

The earliest recorded history starts back in 1660 when van Riebeeck who was then commander of the garrison at the Cape planted a hedge of wild almonds and brambles to form the boundary of colony.

This hedge is still growing in the Gardens today.

The whole of the area where the gardens are used to be covered in timber and it was harvested by woodcutters for the colony.

Over the years the land was owned by a number of families and finally in 1895 was purchased by Cecil John Rhodes.

During his ownership the land became run down and was inhabited by pigs who fed on acorns and wallowed in the muddy pools formed by streams running down the mountainside.

In 1898 a road running from Cape Town and passing through the gardens on its way to Constantia Nek and down to Hout Bay was planted with trees representing the outposts of the British empire in honour of Queen Victoria.

The section of the road which ran through the garden was lined with camphor trees from China, Cinnamonum camphorum, the Moreton Bay figs from Australia, Ficus macrophylla.

Today these trees have matured and form a beautiful treelined avenue in the gardens as seen in the picture above.

 lawns  Cape Clawless Otter

Kirstenbosch lawns & Cape Clawless Otter statue


Kirstenbosch restaurant

A number of years ago this beautiful avenue which formed part of the road to Constantia Nek came under threat as it was very narrow and made it difficult for cars to drive through.

The authorities wanted to widen the road and to do so would have had to pull out many of the trees.

They however came to their senses and moved the road to the east outside the gardens leaving the beautiful Camphor lane intact. In 1902 when Cecil John Rhodes died he bequeathed the land to the people of Cape Town as part of his Groot Schuur estate.

The land lay unused from 1902 till July 1913 when Professor Pearson had the Government set aside the land to build a Botanical garden.

The Government also gave him a grant of a thousand pounds per annum to start the garden but as this was not enough to cover the costs firewood was cut and sold to provide income for the gardens.

Professor Pearson started the gardens by planting cycads in an area named the Dell which he began in about 1915.

 Cycad  protea

A Cycad growing in Kirstenbosch & one of the many Proteas in the garden

In the Dell under the trees that now grow there one can still visit Colonels Bird's bath which was built in about 1811 and is bird shaped. The bath is fed by four springs and its water is chrystal clear. Many shade loving plants such as ferns, tree ferns, plectranthus, impatiens and Mackaya bella have been planted in around the Dell to enhance its beauty.

From the early beginnings the gardens have flourished and today 36 hectares of land have been cultivated and display many plants indigenous to South Africa and especially from the winter rainfall areas. The whole Kirstenbosch estate measures 528 hectares and includes mountain slopes to the top of the mountain. In this area you will find many species of fynbos flora and natural forest.

Kirstenbosch is a place of beauty and a must for any visitor to Cape Town.

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Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Page updated 29.8.2017

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