HexFlora is a collaborative open-source online herbarium dedicated to the indigenous flora of the Hex River Valley and Mountains.
No less than nine vegetation types flow into one another in the valley floor, kloofs, cliffs and buttes (koppies) of the Hex River Valley. Most prominent among these are the South Hex Sandstone Fynbos, adorning the rain shadow slopes of the Matroosberg, the North Langeberg Sandstone Fynbos of the Kwadouberg, the Robertson Karoo vegetation around the town of De Doorns and the Osplaas Rail Station, and the Breede Alluvial Fynbos in the valley floor, now largely replaced by vineyards.
The specimens in this online herbarium are collected with the aim of creating awareness of the biodiversity and natural beauty of the valley's flora, easily overshadowed by the autumn colours of Vitis vinifera, the common grape vine. But also to emphasize the impact of invasive species, climate change, and agriculture on the continued existence of this precious and unique floral region.
Collect and identify
Our mission is to collect and identify as many floral species that grow in the Hex River Valley as possible. By "collect" we mean taking quality photographs of the specimens, capturing the details that would aid in identifying the species in question. We also provide a brief description of the specimen, the locations and vegetation types at which one is likely to find it in the Hex River Valley, and, where available, local vernacular names and uses.
Anyone can contribute
This is a massive undertaking and any help is greatly appreciated. The easiest way to get involved is to download the iNaturalist app and to start making observations of species in the Hex. You can also identify observations made by others. HexFlora has a corresponding project on iNaturalist that includes all plant observations made in the Hex River Valley.
Here are some other more direct ways in which you can get involved:
- provide quality photographs, taken in the valley, of a local species
- provide information, vernacular names or corrections about a locally occuring species
- provide botanical and geographic information or corrections to any such information about the Hex River Valley
- improve the design of this website
- make a logo for this website
Reach out to me (daniepalm) on iNaturalist if you would like to help with any of the above. If you are more technically inclined you can also help by logging an issue on GitHub, where the code and all data for this website lives. If you are even more technically inclined, make a pull request on GitHub with your suggested changes. Please find detailed instructions here.
Copyright and license
The HexFlora software is licensed under the permissive MIT License. Unless stated otherwise, the content (articles, herbarium specimens, photographs) is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 South Africa License.
About the maker of HexFlora
I am a biochemist by training, a software engineer by profession, and a botanist by heart.
I grew up on the farm Goede Hoop in the Hex River Valley. My childhood hangout was a rock garden filled with Crassula ovata, which we called botterbome, and Portulacaria afra, the well known spekboom. There my love for growing things and concocting things began. At any given time I curated a sizeable collection of bottles containing suspended plant materials in various stages of fermentation. A natural next step was to get a medicinal herb garden. Although, I never really prepared any herbal remedies and was much more intrigued by the familial relationships between the plants in my garden. At this stage I developed a keen sense of taxonomy and systematics. And then my herb garden died, high school happened, and I went to study biochemistry (with the odd botany class) and ultimately got a PhD in computational systems biology. I actually landed a job in that field, but soon switched to software engineering, following another childhood passion.
And then slowly but surely I became obsessed with indigenous plants - partly because of the incessant drought we had between 2015 and 2018, partly because of a visit to the Rare Plant Fair at Tokara, and partly because the Paarl Nursery had a close-down sale (and then never closed). My wife and I filled our entire garden with indigenous Fynbos. And we lived waterwise ever after. But on visits to the family farm I found myself increasingly with my eyes on the ground, taking pictures of anything with leaves, trying to identify it, and realizing that very few people know the plants of the Hex. As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, I now have the good fortune of being back in the Hex River Valley permanently. And I would like to share its beauty with everyone.
Danie Palm, April 2021