Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is world-renowned for the beauty and diversity of the Cape flora it displays and for the magnificence of its setting against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.
It lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and one of the great botanic gardens of the world. It deserves being the best-known of South Africa’s nine national botanical gardens, thanks to its stunning scenery, diverse flora and themed gardens. This botanical garden is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (a first for Kirstenbosch) and is a must-see for anyone visiting Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa, and was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora.The land now occupied by the Kirstenbosch Gardens was bequeathed to the Nation by Cecil Rhodes, who died in 1902. The Kirsten part of the name is believed to be the surname of the manager of the land, J.F. Kirsten, in the 18th century. The bosch part of the name is a Dutch word for ‘forest‘ or ‘bush‘.
The garden is located only 13km from Cape Town city centre and boast over 7,000 plant species, including many rare and threatened species.The 36-hectare garden is part of a 528-hectare estate that contains protected mountainside supporting natural forest and fynbos along with a variety of animals and birds. The Kirstenbosch Estate borders the Table Mountain National Park and the Garden merges seamlessly with the natural fynbos and forest of the mountain. It covers five of South Africa’s six different biomes and is administered by the South African Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), founded in 1951.
Kirstenbosch displays a wide variety of the unique plant life of the Cape Flora, also known as fynbos, including sugarbushes (Protea spp.), pincushions (Leucospermum spp.) and heaths (Erica spp.). Plants from all the diverse regions and biomes of southern Africa are also grown at Kirstenbosch, including a near-complete collection of cycads (Encephalartos spp.). Their mission is to promote the sustainable use, conservation, appreciation and enjoyment of the exceptionally rich plant and animal life of South Africa, for the benefit of all people.
Some of the recognition Kirstenbosch has received include the International Garden Tourism Awards Body, which declared Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens the International Garden of the Year in 2015. Kirstenbosch has won 29 gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show in 33 appearances.
A number of trails lead through natural forest and fynbos surrounding the developed garden. A map is obtainable from the Information Office for a nominal fee. These trails lead off along and up the mountain slopes and these are much used by walkers and mountaineers. One of the trails, up a ravine, called Skeleton Gorge, is an easy and popular route to the summit of Table Mountain. This route is also known as Smuts’ Track after Prime Minister Jan Smuts who used this route regularly. On the slopes above the cultivated parts of the garden, a contour path leads through forests to Constantia Nek to the south. The same contour path can be followed to the north for many kilometers and it will take the hiker past the Rhodes Memorial to the slopes of Devil’s Peak and beyond.
The main entrance at the Newlands end of the gardens is where you’ll find the information center, an excellent souvenir shop, and the conservatory. There is also a restaurant, self-service area, and tearoom, as well as a nursery.
The Botanical Society Conservatory enables Kirstenbosch to display South African plants which cannot be grown in the outdoor gardens. Here, under one roof, you will find plants from high mountain peaks, shady forests and hot, dry deserts. The main house, dominated by a large baobab tree, features succulents from the arid regions of southern Africa. Special collections of bulbs, ferns, and alpines are displayed in smaller corner houses.
There are a variety of gardens found within the Botanical Garden. The Peninsula garden displays some of the 2,500 plant species found in the Western Cape. The Water-wise garden demonstrates how to create a garden which needs far less water and maintenance than a conventional garden. The Fragrance garden features plants with interesting textures and scents. Visitors can find out about the many medicinal uses of South African plants at the Medicinal Garden. The Dell the oldest part of the Garden, featuring Colonel Bird’s Bath, tree ferns and a variety of shade-loving plants. The Protea garden features members of the protea family (Proteaceae). This part of the Garden is most magnificent in winter and spring, when the proteas, cone bushes, and serrurias are in flower. Pincushions provide a colorful display in early summer.
There is a bus service to Kirstenbosch from Cape Town and Mowbray Stations. To check the latest times, call the Information Office for details. See numbers below. By car, Kirstenbosch lies 13 km from Cape Town city center. From the city, take De Waal Drive (M3) in the direction of Muizenberg, at the first traffic light intersection turn right (southwards) into Rhodes Drive (M63) and follow the signs to Kirstenbosch.
Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. You will need anything from an hour or two to a full day to enjoy what it has to offer.
The Garden is open 365 days a year
- Sep-Mar (Summer): Mon-Sun
- Apr-Aug (Winter): Mon-Sun
- Conservatory: Mon-Sun
- 09h00 -17h00
Entrance fee is R40 for adults, R25 for SA students with student cards and R10 for children ages 6-18. Children under 6 years are free.
A club car also runs daily mini-tours on the hour from the Visitors’ Centre. (please enquire about the costs). Pre-booking is advisable. Call +27 (0)21 762-9120.
Volunteer guides conduct tours of the Garden from Monday to Saturday at 10h00 and 14h00. Group bookings and special interest tours can be arranged with the Information Office on +27 (0)21 799-8783.
On Sundays during the summer months from December to March, musical sunset concerts are held on the lawns at Kirstenbosch. from 5:30 – 6:30. Concert tickets prices vary. Prices between R60 – R100 for adults, R55 – R75 for scholars and R60 – R100 for Botanical Society members. The gates open at 3:30 so bring a picnic and relax.
Craft markets are also held at the Stone Cottages (opposite Kirstenbosch) on the last Sunday of every month (except June, July, and August).
- Telephone +27(0)21 799 8783
- Ticket Office +27(0)21 799 8782
- Garden Office (weekdays only)
- +27(0)21 799 8899
- Fax: +27(0)21 797 6570
- Email: Kirstenboschinfo@sanbi.org.za
Images provided by Alan Rudnicki
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