Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
230
[Flora and Fauna
Cape Colony

imperfect remains of plants (Spirophyton) are the only fossils, and these are not sufficient to determine if the beds belong to the Devonian or Carboniferous System.

The thickness of the rocks of the Cape System exceeds 5000 ft.

The Karroo System is par excellence the geological formation of South Africa. The greater part of the colony belongs to it, as do large tracts in the Orange Free State and Transvaal. It includes the following well-defined subdivisions:—

Feet.
Stormberg Series GullBraceLeft.svg Volcanic Beds 4000 GullBrace.svg Jurassic
Cave Sandstone 800
Red Beds 1400
Molteno Beds 2000 GullBrace.svg Trias
Beaufort Series GullBraceLeft.svg Burghersdorp Beds GullBrace.svg 5000
Dicynodon Beds
Pareiasaurus Beds GullBrace.svg Permian
Ecca Series GullBraceLeft.svg Shales and Sandstones GullBrace.svg 2600
Laingsburg Beds GullBrace.svg Carboniferous
Shales
Dwyka Series GullBraceLeft.svg Upper Shales 600
Conglomerates 1000
Lower Shales 700

In the southern areas the Karroo formation follows the Cape System conformably; in the north it rests unconformably on very much older rocks. The most remarkable deposits are the conglomerates of the Dwyka series. These afford the clearest evidences of glaciation on a great scale in early Carboniferous times. The deposit strictly resembles a consolidated modern boulder clay. It is full of huge glaciated blocks, and in different regions (Prieska chiefly) the underlying pavement is remarkably striated and shows that the ice was moving southward. The upper shales contain the small reptile Mesosaurus tenuidens.

Plants constitute the chief fossils of the Ecca series; among others they include Glossopteris, Gangamopteris, Phyllotheca. The Beaufort series is noted for the numerous remains of remarkable and often gigantic reptiles it contains. The genera and species are numerous, Dicynodon, Oudenodon, Parciasaurus being the best known. Among plants Glossopteris occurs for the last time. The Stormberg series occurs in the mountainous regions of the Stormberg and Drakensberg. The Molteno beds contain several workable seams of coal. The most remarkable feature of the series is the evidence of volcanic activity on an extensive scale. The greater part of the volcanic series is formed by lava streams of great thickness. Dykes and intrusive sheets, most of which end at the folded belt, are also numerous. The age of the intrusive sheets met with in the Beaufort series is usually attributed to the Stormberg period. They form the kopjes, or characteristic flat-topped hills of the Great Karroo. The Stormberg series contains the remains of numerous reptiles. A true crocodile, Notochampsa, has been discovered in the Red Beds and Cave Sandstone. Among the plants, Thinnfeldia and Taeniopteris are common. Three genera of fossil fishes, Cleithrolepis, Semionotus and Ceratodus, ascend from the Beaufort series into the Cave Sandstone.

Cretaceous rocks occur only near the coast. The plants of the Uitenhage beds bear a close resemblance to those of the Wealden. The marine fauna of Sunday river indicates a Neocomian age. The chief genera are Hamites, Baculites, Crioceras, Olcostephanus and certain Trigoniae.

The superficial post-Cretaceous and Recent deposits are widely spread. High-level gravels occur from 600 to 2000 ft. above the sea. The remains of a gigantic ox, Bubalus Baini, have been obtained from the alluvium near the Modder river. The recent deposits indicate that the land has risen for a long period.  ((W. G.*))  Fauna:—The fauna is very varied, but some of the wild animals common in the early days of the colony have been exterminated (e.g. quagga and blaauwbok), and others (e.g. the lion, rhinoceros, giraffe) driven beyond the confines of the Cape. Other game have been so reduced in numbers as to require special protection. This class includes the elephant (now found only in the Knysna and neighbouring forest regions), buffalo and zebra (strictly preserved, and confined to much the same regions as the elephant), eland, oribi, koodoo, haartebeest and other kinds of antelope and gnu. The leopard is not protected, but lingers in the mountainous districts. Cheetahs are also found, including a rare woolly variety peculiar to the Karroo. Both the leopards and cheetahs are commonly spoken of in South Africa as tigers. Other carnivora more or less common to the colony are the spotted hyena, aard-wolf (or Proteles), silver jackal, the Otocyon or Cape wild dog, and various kinds of wild cats. Of ungulata, besides a few hundreds of rare varieties, there are the spring buck, of which great herds still wander on the open veld, the steinbok, a small and beautiful animal which is sometimes coursed like a hare, the klipspringer or “chamois of South Africa,” common in the mountains, the wart-hog and the dassie or rock rabbit. There are two or three varieties of hares, and a species of jerboa and several genera of mongooses. The English rabbit has been introduced into Robben Island, but is excluded from the mainland. The ant-bear, with very long snout, tongue and ears, is found on the Karroo, where it makes inroads on the ant-heaps which dot the plain. There is also a scaly ant-eater and various species of pangolins, of arboreal habit, which live on ants. Baboons are found in the mountains and forests, otters in the rivers. Of reptiles there are the crocodile, confined to the Transkei rivers, several kinds of snakes, including the cobra di capello and puff adder, numerous lizards and various tortoises, including the leopard tortoise, the largest of the continental land forms. Of birds the ostrich may still be found wild in some regions. The great kori bustard is sometimes as much as 5 ft. high. Other game birds include the francolin, quail, guineafowl, sand-grouse, snipe, wild duck, wild goose, widgeon, teal, plover and rail. Birds of prey include the bearded vulture, aasvogel and several varieties of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. Cranes, storks, flamingoes and pelicans are found in large variety.

Parrots are rarely seen. The greater number of birds belong to the order Passeres; starlings, weavers and larks are very common, the Cape canary, long-tailed sugar bird, pipits and wagtails are fairly numerous. The English starling is stated to be the only European bird to have thoroughly established itself in the colony. The Cape sparrow has completely acclimatized itself to town life and prevented the English sparrow obtaining a footing.

Large toads and frogs are common, as are scorpions, tarantula spiders, butterflies, hornets and stinging ants. In some districts the tsetse fly causes great havoc. The most interesting of the endemic insectivora is the Chrysochloris or “golden mole,” so called from the brilliant yellow lustre of its fur. There are not many varieties of freshwater fish, the commonest being the baba or cat-fish and the yellow fish. Both are of large size, the baba weighing as much as 70 lb. The smallest variety is the culper or burrowing perch. In some of the vleis and streams in which the water is intermittent the fish preserve life by burrowing into the ooze. Trout have been introduced into several rivers and have become acclimatized. Of sea fish there are more than forty edible varieties. The snock, the steenbrass and geelbeck are common in the estuaries and bays. Seals and sharks are also common in the waters of the Cape. Whales visit the coast for the purpose of calving.

Of the domestic animals, sheep, cattle and dogs were possessed by the natives when the country was discovered by Europeans. The various farm animals introduced by the whites have thriven well (see below, Agriculture).

Flora.—The flora is rich and remarkably varied in the coast districts. On the Karroo and the interior plateau there is less variety. In all, some 10,000 different species have been noted in the colony, about 450 genera being peculiar to the Cape. The bush of the coast districts and lower hills consists largely of heaths, of which there are over 400 species. The heaths and the rhenoster or rhinoceros wood, a plant 1 to 2 ft. high resembling heather, form the characteristic features of the flora of the districts indicated. The prevailing bloom is pink coloured. The deciduous plants lose their foliage in the dry season but revive with the winter rains. Notable among the flowers are the arum lily and the iris. The pelargonium group, including many varieties of geranium, is widely represented. In