Picture: Working on Fire
Out of the ashes of the devastating Knysna fires, new life is beginning to emerge as the area continues to recover.

Cobus Meiring, of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI), said a recent survey throughout the Knysna burn scar showed there is very positive indigenous plant regrowth throughout the landscape.

“With favourable rains in the Knysna area, coupled with an early spring and longer daylight hours, fynbos is making a strong comeback. 

"Known to be dependent on cycles of wildfire for regeneration, the fynbos in the area no doubt benefited from the 2017 Knysna fire disaster,” Meiring said.

The intense wildfires that ravaged the Knysna countryside in June last year were fuelled by strong winds and dense stands of invasive alien biomass littering the countryside, and swept through areas including Buffels Bay, Brenton and Rheenendal.

In most places, all that remained in terms of vegetation was barren sand.

According to Meiring, a further concern was that denuded landscapes would be completely covered by a wave of invasive alien plants, which are known to outcompete indigenous plants, such as lowland fynbos.

A recent survey throughout the burn scar, however, showed there is very positive indigenous regrowth.

“The herbicide assistance programme rolled out on selected properties by the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association (SCFPA), and sponsored through Nedbank and WWF SA, provided assistance to the respective landowners to very effectively stemmed the growth of invasive alien plants, allowing indigenous plants to flourish,” Meiring said.

The Pledge Nature Reserve has also reported the emergence of what they have termed a “rather ugly” fungus called Pisolithus arrhizus. 

“They are growing from the base of burnt trees and are known to be a powerful mycorrhizal fungus that stimulates growth in plants and are used in horticulture and in the rehabilitation of forested areas,” the reserve reported.

The reserve reopened after the devastating fires with bridges and walkways fixed, and new growth observed in the burn sites.