Indigenous plants are varied and numerous. A belt of coastland, extending for about 19km (12miles) from the sea, was originally covered with a dense bush of evergreen trees and flowering shrubs. Clumps of the graceful Wild Date Palm [Phoenix reclinata] and the sub tropical Natal Wild Banana [Strelitzia nicolai] can be seen growing along the coastline.
Many kinds of bright coloured wild flowers abound at the edge of the forests. Numerous bulbous plants and varieties of amaryllis and irises, as well as the more common fire-lily, Natal lily, lfafa lily and several species of gladiolus and arum lilies can be seen. Several kinds of aloes and thick leafed plants akin to them are widely distributed. There are no fewer than 126 species of ferns indigenous to KwaZulu Natal.
There are natural forests on the coast, in the midlands and in the uplands, each with its own characteristic trees:
On the coast the Water-boom, flat crown, wild chestnut, knob-thorn, coral tree and ironwood are found.
Midlands: Mainly thorn bush, with mist-belt forest in parts, and extremely rare and endangered mist-belt grasslands· in some areas. The endangered Blue Swallow breeds in these grasslands.
Highlands: Yellow wood, sneeze wood, stinkwood, French walnut, black ironwood, wild olive, white ironwood and essen wood (South African Ash). Elsa Pooley’s guide to the trees of KwaZulu Natal is essential reading on the trees and forests of the province.
Natal has a wonderfully rich bird-life. No less than 651 species have been recorded in this province, more than twice as many known in the British Isles or in any European country.