Southern Africa is poorly endowed with true forests. Since the country is generally arid, most of our forest patches occur in highly restricted areas, mainly on coastal plains, remote mountain gorges and in areas of consistently high rainfall. The key environmental factor that limits the spread of these beautiful forests is firstly water, but they would certainly extend somewhat if it were not for grassveld fires in the surrounding areas. The rainfall of these forests range from 700-2000mm per year, occurring through all seasons depending on the area where they occur. In some areas they extend to altitudes where winter snow falls. In Southern Africa, about 5964 km2 of these forests remain, and of this, approximately 18% is currently conserved. If one considers that Afromontane forests only occupy 0.47% of South Africa’s land area, it brings home the fragility, conservation importance and uniqueness of this lovely botanical heritage.
These forests were previously known by old botanical descriptions such as Knysna Forest, North-Eastern Mountain Sourveld, Highland and Dohne Sourveld and Montane Forests. Except for the coastal forests at Knysna, the Afromontane forests of the Magoebaskloof area rank as of the most extensive in South Africa and also of the most beautiful. The vegetation of these forests have enormous plant diversity and are dominated by trees as tall as 30-40m. These trees form distinct strata, or layers of emergent and canopy trees with herb and shrub layers below.