Overview

The Highveld terrain is generally devoid of mountains, consisting of rolling plains, especially in the Free State, sometimes interrupted by rocky ridges such as the Witwatersrand, the Magaliesberg, and Vredefort Dome. The Vaal River and its tributaries form the main water drainage system of the Highveld. Tributaries of the Orange River drain the most southerly regions of the Highveld.

Agriculture on the Highveld is generally dominated by extensive grain production and the grazing of beef cattle,with more intensive production of maize, wheat, sorghum, citrus fruits, groundnuts, sunflowers and vegetables, occurring in irrigated areas and farmland closer to urban areas. The peat base of the grassland acts as a natural filter providing sources of clean water.

Naturally occurring vegetation in the Highveld consists of different types of well-established grassland depending on the varying amounts of rainfall across the area: subtropical and temperate grassland, with true savannah not dominating the ecosystem until more tropical latitudes. The major grass species are Hyparrhenia hirta and Sporobolus pyramidalis and among these are other grasses and herbs. Trees and shrubs never throve due to the frequent fires that occurred in the dry season and the heavy grazing (once by wild animals and now by livestock).

The highveld is home to a number of endangered animals including straw-coloured fruit bats, Africa’s largest snake the African rock python (Python sebae), mountain zebras and South Africa’s national bird the blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus). The only endemic bird species is Botha’s lark (Spizocorys fringillaris) and there are two endemic mammals; Free State pygmy mouse (Mus orangiae) and the rough-haired golden mole (Chrysospalax villosa). As well as the python other reptiles include Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus), rock monitor (Varanus albigularis), and giant girdled lizard or sungazer (Smaug giganteus).

A noticeable charactiristic of many of the flowers in this ecozone is their porenial underground storing mechanism, consisting of bulbs and tubers which enable these plants to withstand fire, periodical summer droughts and cold winters. These flowers include a variety of gladioli, harebells, Christmas Bells, nerinas and Arum lilly.

the characteristic vegetation on the numerous higveld ridges in the Gauteng region is known as Bakenveld.