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Late Blooms Signal Trouble for South Africa’s Tourism

In late August each year, the normally barren landscape of the Namaqualand, along the western boundary of South Africa, is transformed into a vista of brightly coloured daisies as far as the eye can see. The flowering of the Namaqualand daisies attracts close to 10,000 tourists per season to a part of the country that doesn’t get many visitors otherwise. But climate change poses a threat to the flowering event, and to the tourist arrivals which generate regional income. The Namaqualand daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) are endemic to the Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces of South Africa, and have evolved to survive the harsh, dry climatic conditions. During the early spring, flowering of the daisies is triggered by the change in temperature and rainfall. This is an example of what is termed a phenological event. As flowering dates are happening earlier, the timing of organised and independent flower tours will need to shift to give tourists the best chance of experiencing the region in peak bloom. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as arriving 2.1 to 2.6 days earlier each decade; under climate change the timing of flowering is also becoming more unpredictable.