The Dell

Colonel Bird's Bath

The oldest, and arguably the most attractive section of the Garden, Colonel Bird's Bath is the focal point of the Dell. Built in approximately 1811 by Colonel Christopher Bird, Deputy Colonial Secretary, it is bird shaped (a play on his name) and made of Batavian type bricks. It is fed by four crystal-clear, ice-cold springs. The paths and bath surroundings have been paved and cobbled in local stone by Kirstenbosch stone masons. The Dell provides suitable habitats for shade-loving plants like ferns, tree ferns, plectranthus, impatiens and Mackaya bella, among others. This is the place to be on a hot summer day.

Otter Pond

In the shade of the Khaya nyassica tree and framed by a picturesque stone wall, is the Otter Pond. In this pond is a very lifelike statue of the elusive Cape Clawless Otter that is said to still live along this stream.

While you may not see the real otter, one thing you will definitely find in this pond is the crab on which the otter is feeding.

Cycad Amphitheatre

Above the Bath and in a natural amphitheatre is the impressive collection of cycads, Encephalartos species. Palm-like in appearance, they are often called "living fossils"; not because they are so slow growing, but because fossils show us that they have changed remarkably little since prehistoric times. The Cycad Living Collection was the first collection of plants to be established at Kirstenbosch.

Cycads are mostly rare and endangered in their natural habitats and are constantly under threat from unscrupulous collectors. The caged cycad in the centre of the picture above is Encephalartos woodii, which is extinct in the wild. Only male plants exist and unscrupulous collectors have stolen suckers from this plant in the past.

Kirstenbosch has an active propagation programme to increase the number of plants available to gardeners and collectors and thus take the pressure off the few remaining plants in the wild.

Pearson's Grave

Prof. Harold Pearson, the first Director of Kirstenbosch, lies buried in the shade of a magnificent Atlas Cedar. His epitaph: 'If ye seek his monument, look around you' is a fitting one for the man whose vision and energy led to the establishment these magnificent Gardens. Next




© South African National Biodiversity Institute SANBI Home
Gardens Home
This Garden's Home