Our piece of countryside originally supported Renosterveld vegetation at one time. Renosterveld vegetation falls in between the categories of Fynbos vegetation and Succulent Karoo vegetation. Farming of wheat, oats, canola over the years has wiped out 98% of this vegetation and it exists mainly in little patches on the edges of steep valleys which do not lend themselves to farming operations. Because Renosterveld lands have been used for farming for the last three hundred years, we can never know what the original Renosterveld looked like. We can only identify today's version of Renosterveld where farming is not taking place. If the land is no longer used for farming, as is the case now with our plot, it takes many, many years for a semblance of natural vegetation to return. In the interim, on our plot, a hardy bush known as Renosterbos (Elytropappus rhinocerotis), started taking over the land once the last crop of oats was harvested. This eventually becomes a rather woody bush. The sheep and cattle do not eat it and it is not particularly attractive.
Nevertheless, it is indigenous, unlike the alien Australian Black Wattle which can become very dense if left unattended, especially in little ravines where the soil is moist.
We are so fortunate to have a botanist as a neighbour. He has written up various data about vegetation in South Africa. He responded to my request for clarification on what typical Renosterveld plants we could think of planting on our property to speed up the process a little and here follows a summary of his note to me regarding the indigenous vegetation that has been identified and found in the general area.
For Eastern Ruens Shale Renosterveld, which stretches from Stormsvlei to the Goukou River at Riversdale, the vegetation is open to mid-dense, cupressoid and small-leafed, low to mid-high grassy shrubland. Soil and geology is clays and loams derived from Bokkeveld Group shales. Some important species are Aloe ferox, Elytropappus rhinocerotis, Helichrysum petiolare, Hermannia flammea, H. saccifera, Oedera genistifolia, O. squarrosa, O. uniflora, Rhus pallens, Ruschia tenella; Cymbopogon plurinodis, Eragrostis curvula. Merxmuellera stricta, Themeda triandra.
In river valleys you find Acacia karoo, Aloe ferox, Buddleja saligna and Rhus pallens. Athanasia trifurcata and Stoebe plumosa are found in disturbed areas.
For the entire area, at various places are found Aloe ferox, Anthospermum prostratum, Euclea undulata, Helichrysum asperum var. albidulum, Gymnosporia buxifolia subsp. heterophylla (Pendoring), Microloma sagittatum, Mohria caffrorum, Olea europaea subsp. africana (Wild olive), Oxalis obtusa, O. pes-caprae var. pes-caprae (Suuring), Pelargonium alchemilloides, Polygala fruticosa, Rhus lucida (Taaibos), Stachys aethiopica, Sutherlandia frutescens (Kankerbos), Grasses: Cynodon dactylon, Ehrharta calycina var. angustifolia, E. erecta var. erecta, Eragrostis curvula (Lovegrass), Festuca scabra, Merxmuellera stricta, Pentaschistis eriostoma, Melica racemosa, Themeda triandra, Koeleria capensis, Tribolium hispidum (Haasgras).
Of course, many of these plants are not found at nurseries but we determined to find as many as we could and started to prepare our shopping list. His advice was to first plant out easily obtainable plants such as Acacia karoo, Aloe ferox, Buddleja saligna and Wild olive and then wait to see what plants started moving in naturally.