27 March 2012 by Chris Marais

Cosmos season

The beauty of South Africa’s cosmos, 1 of the country’s landmarks, has its origins in an infamous war.

In the autumn months of April and May, the Eastern Free State lights up with cosmos magic. The 36km ride on the R711 between Clarens and Fouriesburg is a riot of multicoloured cosmos fields, and if you take 1 or 2 side roads towards the elegant Maluti Mountains in the distance, you will see the real enchantment of these little flowers.

They fill ditches, they illuminate the horizon, they stand guard next to the road as they wave delicately in the wind.

In Namaqualand, with its famous springtime daisies, visitors pull over, park and make straight for the flowers. Many plop down and make daisy angels. Others are out with their macro-lenses, while most just stand there and drink it all in with their eyes.

Apart from the ‘daisy angel’ thing, it’s the same with the sensational cosmos season.

In Namaqualand with its famous springtime daisies, visitors pull over, park and make straight for the flowers. Many plop down and make daisy angels. Others are out with their macro lenses while most just stand there and drink it all in with their eyes.

The South African Anglo-Boer War brought many battles, skirmishes and ambushes to this area. Boer families took shelter in the sandstone caves around Clarens and hid from the invading British columns and their scouting parties.

Who would have thought then, that in the midst of all this bloodshed, this notorious war would also give rise to the cosmos flower in South Africa?

In the years from 1899 to 1902, the cosmos seed came over in the horse feed shipped across from Mexico for the British forces. So wherever you see banked rows of cosmos, you will know that there’s a good chance that a British cavalryman may have passed there.

Now it's been discovered that our cosmos comes in 20 different species, and that their lands of origin include Paraguay, Central America and parts of the southern US.

Another great delight in this area is to visit the Sandstone Estates Farm outside Ficksburg and lie in wait behind rows of cosmos to get the perfect image of an old steam train chugging through cheering flowers. On certain days of the year, visitors are allowed onto the grounds of this massive heritage farm, where they immediately make for the train sheds. Riding a Sandstone locomotive through the autumn cosmos should be right up there on your South African bucket list.

Category: Routes & Trails

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