Photo Credit: Eugene Hahndiek

A type of Fynbos with a pretty yellow flower called the Mini Galaxy (Moraea minima) was rediscovered by NWSMA Conservation Manager Eugéne Hahndiek after 42 years.


Western Cape, South Africa (12 October 2023) – A fynbos species presumed to be extinct – and last seen in 1981 – has been rediscovered in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (NWSMA), close to the southernmost tip of Africa.

The pretty yellow flower, called the Mini Galaxy (Moraea minima) was rediscovered by NWSMA Conservation Manager Eugéne Hahndiek while on a routine drive in the conservation area. However, he didn’t know that he had found something special at the time.

He photographed the plant which was flowering in the middle of a road in August 2022 and posted it on iNaturalist, the app whereby citizen scientists record observations of biodiversity across the world. At the time, he identified it as a common Moraea species, known as Moraea galaxia.

However, this year Eugéne’s photograph caught the eye of scientist Dr John Manning. He identified the observation as a Moraea species that the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) had been searching for. In July, after being informed by Dr Manning, the CREW team visited the original site to search for the species but didn’t find it in flower. However, the team returned in August this year and this time CREW’s Sharndre Heuvel, with luck, found the species at a new locality.

In trouble – even 42 years ago

Even in 1981, there was concern for the Mini Galaxy. It was listed as Critically Endangered and was even then known from only one location that was heavily invaded by invasive alien plants. It only occurs on Agulhas Sand Fynbos, a Critically Endangered vegetation type.

However, since this investigation started into the species, Eugéne and the NWSMA team, along with CREW, have found two populations of Moraea minima. According to Ismail Ebrahim, CREW’s Project Manager for the Cape Floristic Region,

“This rediscovery illustrates the value of regular monitoring and encouraging people to participate in programmes like CREW and post their findings on iNaturalist. This is a critical step for understanding the exceptionally special plants we have and what steps have to be taken to conserve these species.”

Eugéne said of the Mini Galaxy,

“It seems that this special species is difficult to find because it’s quite finnicky. What we’ve found is that it only flowers in spring for a few hours after it has rained. Then the flowers disappear, until the following rains come. The other challenge is that these plants seem to often grow in slightly precarious spaces, for example road verge or in the middle of a road. That’s why we need to know where they are, to plan how to protect them.”

Photo Credit: Eugene Hahndiek

How the NWSMA is protecting these species

Thanks to funding support from the Table Mountain Fund (TMF) (an associated Trust of WWF South Africa), as well as the Mapula Trust, Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, and WWF South Africa, Moraea minima and other species of conservation concern, such as the newly discovered Nuwejaars Fire Lily (Cyrtanthus novus-annus), can be monitored and understood better in the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA, in order to be protected.

Currently, a botanical expert, Geoff Nichols, is undertaking botanical assessments across fynbos landscapes in the NWSMA. As it is, he has covered 13 342 hectares on foot in the past year, documenting the species he finds. Between Geoff and Eugéne, a number of very special species have been found here, including Erica oblongiflora, Erica penduliflora and Phylica parvula – three Endangered species on the SANBI Red List, as well as the Critically Endangered Erica berzeliodes.

Farmers have signed title deed restrictions

The Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area plays a vital role in protecting key habitats. This conservation area, made up of 26 farms, covers 47,000 hectares, half of which is natural land and wetlands, between the towns of Bredasdorp and Elim in the Overberg.

It’s home to nearly 50% of all remaining Agulhas Sand Fynbos and 20% of Agulhas Limestone Fynbos in the world. Both of these are Critically Endangered. Around 40% of the remaining Endangered Elim Ferricrete Fynbos also occur here. Farmers have signed title deed restrictions in order to protect the land in perpetuity.

For more information, visit: www.nuwejaars.com

Sources: Press Release
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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