The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden lies 120km north of Cape Town at the foot of the Hex River Mountains on the outskirts of Worcester. It is one of the ten National Botanical Gardens in South Africa.
Historically, the garden was originally established in 1921 at White Hill railway siding, 5km east of Matjiesfontein and was known as the Logan Memorial Garden. It was the 2nd National Botanical Garden to be established after Kirstenbosch. As a result of water shortages and the re-routing of the national road, a new site was sought and the garden was relocated to Worcester in August 1945. With additional land donated by the Worcester Municipality and a private donation, its size was increased to the present 154 hectares. Some of the original quiver trees, Aloe dichotoma, which were transplanted from White Hill, still survive.
In 2001 the name was officially changed to Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden, emphasising that this garden conserves and displays plants from the arid and semi-arid regions of southern Africa, with its main focus on succulents. Only 11 hectares are cultivated, the remaining 143 hectares being the natural vegetation of the area. Two hiking trails, the Shale Trail and the Grysbokkie Trail, run through the natural area. The most popular time to visit the Garden is during spring, when the annuals and vygies (mesembs) are in flower.
According to the Garden’s web-site, 95 bird species have been recorded in the Gardens to date. However, a member of the Worcester Bird Club who has birded there for a number of years puts the figure at about 120 species. In the cultivated areas species such as White-backed Mousebird, Southern (Common) Fiscal, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Robin-Chat, Karoo Prinia and Acacia Pied Barbet are common, and when the spring flowers are out, Southern Double-collared and Malachite Sunbirds abound. Other species which venture into the cultivated areas, but will also be found along the trails and in the natural vegetation are Karoo Scrub-Robin, Bokmakierie, Bar-throated Apalis, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Long-billed Crombec, Cape Bunting, Grey-backed Cisticola and Cape and White-throated Canary.
Species less common but possible are Fairy Flycatcher, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Layard’s Titbabbler, Neddicky and Grey Tit, and in spring Klaas’s Cuckoo may be regularly heard and seen.
Overhead look out for Peregrine Falcon and White-necked Raven, and in summer flocks of swifts (Alpine, African Black, Little and White-rumped) may be seen with Greater Striped, Pearl-breasted and White-throated Swallows also present.
Just below the gardens and across the road which forms the southern boundary lies a small wetland which holds species like Cape Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Levaillant’s Cisticola and Lesser Swamp Warbler, water birds such as Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot and several duck species such as Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler and Yellow-billed Duck.
The reserve is open 365 days of the year from 07h00 to 19h00.
An entrance fee is payable, although entrance is free to Botsoc members and disabled persons.
Entrance fees as at September 2018 are:
Low Season – 1 November to 31 May.
R10 – Adults
R7 – Students
R5 – Under 18 & pensioners
High Season – 1 June to 31 October.
R22 – Adults
R15 – Students
R10 – Under 18
R12 – Pensioners.
The physical address of the Gardens is Roux Road, Panorama, Worcester. If travelling along the N1 from Cape Town, turn left at the first traffic light when you reach Worcester. This is Roux Road. Drive up the road with the golf course on your left and the reserve entrance is at the top of the road on the right.
GPS Co-ordinates are: 33⁰37’00.2S, 19⁰27’01.7E