Sutherland is the site of some fascinating and rare plant life. Not much rain falls in the district. When it does, the dry earth responds by erupting almost overnight into a multi-coloured carpet of wild flowers that stretches for kilometres in the nearby Hantam-Roggeveld.
The star tree, or Cliffortia arborea, is indigenous to Sutherland and is found only in the wonderfully named Unwieldy Mountains. Its needle-like leaves grow in a distinctive spiral shape around the stem, giving it its name.
The Romulea eburnea flowering plant was recently discovered in the area, adding to the 27 known species of Southern African Romulea.
Other rare finds have been the purple-flowered Moraea and the Daubenya aurea, a bulbous plant with yellow flowers.
The endangered Dioscorea elephantipes or olifantspoot (elephant’s foot), a succulent plant that lives without roots in the ground and grows extremely slowly, can be found in the area.
Plant enthusiasts can explore the Sutherland Tanqua Route, which forms part of the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Plan (SKEP), and visit the 260ha Sterboom Natural Heritage site.
Fauna – The Tortoise and The Hare (ag okay, The Rabbit)
Not only is Sutherland the only place in the world where you can spot five different species of tortoise, but it is also home to South Africa’s most endangered mammal, the humble doekvotjie or riverine rabbit, Bunolagus monticularis. There are fewer than 1 500 of these little guys remaining and they can only be found in the Karoo.
Despite its arid environment, Sutherland enjoys abundant birdlife. The more glamorous members include Ludwig’s bustard (Neotis ludwiggi), Sclater’s lark (Spizocorys sclateri), the black-chested snake-eagle (Circaetus pectoralis) and the martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) as well as spurwing geese and flamboyant flamingos.
Many butterfly species flit in and around the area, some of them unique to this part of the world, the McGregor’s blue butterfly (Lepidochrysops macgregori) being one of particular interest.