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The Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens is tucked away in a leafy suburban street of Stellenbosch town in the Western Cape. The gardens began in 1902 when a small section of land was set aside for plant research. Since those days, the layout has been formalised and although limited for space, the garden is crammed with thousands of floral varieties.
Take a walk through the gardens to see the typical fynbos that occurs naturally throughout the Western Cape including a species no longer seen in the wild, then on to the medicinal plants section used by indigenous tribes to treat all manner of ailment, through the herb and vegetable garden, and finally via the tree section where a few giant American sequoia and redwood species have established themselves.
In the greenhouses are interesting plants such as the welwitschia, a living fossil from Namibia. The gardens boasts a fine collection too of bonsai trees and colourful oxalis that thrive on forest floors.
Recently the pond was upgraded to house and heat giant Victoria water lilies. These remarkable plants open at night, change colour and have a pleasant smell.
Birds, spiders, frogs and many insect species are attracted to the plant life here, keep an eye out for sunbirds and butterflies pollinating plants while tadpoles can be seen clinging to the pond walls.
The University offers an online tool, called Garden Explorer, for visitors to easily locate a specific plant in the gardens. The website is http://sun.gardenexplorer.org/ and by entering the plant details, the user is directed to within a few centimetres of its location.
On the premises is a small nursery to purchase plants, the BioBou shop sells seeds and books, and the Katjiepiering Restaurant offers visitors light meals under the trees.
The Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens is a great place to spend a few hours unwinding and enjoying the tranquillity. And best of all, entrance is free.