Updated: Jan 28, 2021
February in Cape Town is the much awaited month for Disas. Trail runners, hikers and flower lovers alike make their way over and around the mountain to catch a glimpse of these beautiful flowers. While they do flower from December to March, they are most prolific in mid-February, and it's best to know where to look. They like to grow in damp places, so in waterfalls or usually wet and drippy rocks is a good place to look if you can only do around the bottom of the mountain. But the top of the mountain is where it's really all at! Fynbos has an amazing ability to hold water/dew, so often, even in the dry summer months, with just a little cloud cover, the top of the mountian remains damp. Routes along Smuts track, near the dams, around Echo valley and the Table Top are great places to look and not terribly hard to get to, as long as you can go the distance (or there is always the cable car).
The big red disas, Disa Unflora, symbol of the Western Cape, and also known as the Pride of Table Mountain, is the easiest to spot and grows abundantly along the mountain streams and waterfalls. Because of it's size and brightness you can't miss them. The best spot to see them is in the Aquaduct stream on Smut's track. Good routes to get there are going up Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge and taking the track to Maclear's Beacon. You can't miss them as you cross the stream, there are a lot. And you can enjoy fantastic views too.
The Blue Disa, Disa Graminifolia, is a lot smaller and harder to find. They are also a bit more spaced out along the trail, not in streams. So wheras the red disas you can see 20-30 in one spot, the blue disa is more of a lone wolf and ususally spaced a few metres apart. In my opinion these are the most beautiful and I can't pass one without taking a photo. The best trail to see these on is the one that runs perpendicular and through Echo Valley. The trail runs from the dams up and then down into Echo Valley crossroads, then up to the table top path near Platteklip. We did this route 2 weeks in a row, once going up Platteklip and down through this trail back to Constantia Nek, luckily a rare cool and wet February morning. The second week we went up Nursery, did this trail to Maclears and the front table, to come back down via Valley of Isolation, back to Constantia Nek. Both were super fun routes with lots of climbing, which is my favourite.
This year I have learnt about the Orange Cluster Disa, Disa Ferruginea, which looks very different from the red and blue disas. It has a more hardy reed like stem and clusters of up to 40 flowers, the flowers are a trumpet kind of shape. These disas are only pollinated by the Mountain Pride Butterfly and because their pollen is not nutritious they disguise themselves to look like other flowers. This disa has adapted to mimic the colour of the Tritonopsis Triticea, which is a nectar rich Iris that flowers in spring and looks similar. They can also be different colours in different areas, the Cluster Disa in the east of the Western Cape is orange, while in the west they are more red. We found a lot of these growing on the same trail as the blue ones, so were pretty much stopping every couple of metres for photos.
We are so lucky in the Western Cape of South Africa to be treated to displays like this and I look forward to disa hunting every year. I hope you will too.
And remember if you are taking your furry friends to take water for them and have a valid activity permit. Also accept that they will think you are mad when you stop all the time to peer at tiny blue flowers.