Due to its location, Bezhoek Nature Reserve, situated in the transition area of the Lowveld and Highveld of Mpumalanga, boasts more variants of grass species than the Kruger National Park.
The cycad populations of both the critically endangered Encephalartos Middelburgensis and vulnerable Lanatus, the extensive river frontage, permanent internal wetlands and streams, riverine forestation, gorges, savannah plains, rocky outcrops and cliffs make the farm a jewel amongst the surrounding mines and mielie fields and justify the farm’s “irreplaceable biodiversity” status, supported by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).
Bezhoek Nature Reserve is home to two cycad species of the Encephalartos genus – indigenous to South Africa and native to Africa:
- the critically endangered Middelburgensis and
- the vulnerable Lanatus (more commonly referred to as the woolly cycad)
Both occur naturally in Mpumalanga in the catchment area of the Olifants River in the Middelburg, Witbank and Bronkhorstspruit districts.
This highveld grassland species occurs in sheltered rocky valleys that experience moderately hot summers and very cold frosty winters. The Middelburgensis, or Middelburg Cycad, distribution is limited to the Middelburg and Loskop dam areas.
Grasses are the dominant vegetation in many habitats, with grasslands accounting for over 25% of the planet’s land. They also occur as a smaller part of the vegetation in almost every other terrestrial habitat.
Grass stabilises and protects the soil and is for this reason one of the most important plant species on earth. Furthermore, it supports the dietary needs of most animals and provides the basic habitat for other plants to flourish in.
With 88 species officially recorded and over 100 species observed at Bezhoek, the grasslands within the reserve are considered highly significant. Considering its relevance, the Bezhoek Management team follows a strict management plan to preserve its grasslands.
TREES AND SCHRUBS
With approximately 400 plants species recorded at Bezhoek Nature Reserve and with 27 red listed plants recorded for the grid in which the farm lies, the vegetation is significant and requires further investigation according to a SANBI Report.