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Nelson Mandela University’s 830-hecture nature reserve is at its springtime best, as a new virtual field trip of its exceptional plant diversity reveals.

The new virtual tour (, which captures one of the rarest tracts of dune fynbos in the world, is the work of botany researchers, Dr Alastair Potts and postdoctoral fellow Dr Adriaan Grobler.

“The plant communities’ diversity is exceptional.  The reserve conserves this unique plant community with its many unusual attributes, including the presence of extensive underground forests,” says Dr Potts. 

The dune fynbos mosaic system, its history and the presence of ancient man’s tools, the role of wind and fire, and invasive alien plants, such as Rooikrans and Port Jacksons and their impact on the system are all included in the visuals. 

“The reserve also protects 20-odd plant species of conservation concern, 12 of which are globally threatened with extinction.  For some of these species (e.g. Aspalathus cliffortiifolia and Aspalathus recurvispina), the reserve is the only formally protected area that houses some of their populations,” says Dr Grobler.

The reserve, inclusive of the popular Grysbok Trail, serves as an outdoor laboratory by undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Botany, Geology and Zoology departments, as well as other nature lovers.

Students from Cambridge University, for example, conducted research on birdlife over a period of five years.

Horticultural Senior Manager Elana Storm says the main goal of the reserve, which contains the University’s South and North campuses, is conservation.

“Fynbos vegetation is highly threatened due to agricultural clearing and coastal development, and the reserve makes a significant contribution towards its conservation.” 

The campus was declared a private nature reserve in 1983.

The Grysbok Trail, established in 1995 as an environmental education and recreation resource for the University, and the broader community is open to the public.

The trail meanders through the reserve, providing opportunities for observing the exciting fauna, including a variety of mammalsreptiles, amphibians, birds, and flora of the area. 

The two trail options of 4.8km or 2.5km across relatively flat terrain are also popular with runners and cyclists. In the interest of safety, visitors should sign the Visitors' Book at the fence stile at the start of the trail.

Trained guides are also available to lead visitors on the trail, but need to be booked by emailing, or

Read more on the plant diversity at

Watch an interview with Adriaan Grobler on eNCA's YouTube channel at:



Contact information
Dr Alastair Potts
Senior Lecturer and Researcher
Tel: 041 504-2396