As a major water catchment, the Baviaanskloof is vital to the Port Elizabeth area. The water supply from the Baviaanskloof is so high in quality that no treatment is required and is also used for irrigation in the Gamtoos River Valley.
Numerous gorges, ravines and exposed areas create different micro-climates across an area with great seasonal and rainfall variations.
These different habitats support different vegetation types, which often occur in close proximity to each other, sometimes even intermingled to a greater or lesser extent.
The Baviaanskloof is the meeting place for three of South Africa’s seven biomes, contains five veld types and is home to more than 1,200 plant species.
Very little botanical work has been done in the area. Despite this, undescribed species are continually being discovered.
Rare and endangered species total 32, and 26 species are regarded as endemic to the reserve (i.e. not occurring anywhere else in the world).
The latter include the rare endemic Willowmore Cedar (Widdringtonia schwartzii). Because of its size and durable timber this tree was once harvested intensively.
Now all that remains are small clumps of trees hiding in inaccessible ravines and the odd stunted specimen cowering along the mountaintops, visible only to the trained eye.