One of the great delights of the Magaliesberg is the beauty and profusion of its flora.
The dappled shade of evergreen forests and humus-rich, moist soils are ideal conditions for a number of species of bryophytes and ferns. Bryophytes are primitive plants, which include mosses. They lack roots and need moisture for fertilisation. For these reasons their distribution in the Magaliesberg is largely restricted to shady forests and kloofs.
The majority of ferns are not visible during the dry winter months, surviving underground as dormant rhizomes or as latent fertilised spores called zygotes. With the onset of rain, however, graceful fronds emerge from sheltered positions under stones or along the banks of temporary watercourses. Among the most attractive are parsley ferns, Cheilanthes and possibly the most frequently seen in the dry forests is the common green fern Pellaea viridis.
There are more than a hundred species of grasses in the Magaliesberg. Some of the more common of them can be easily identified and their presence is often indicative of the condition of the veld. Rooigras, Themeda triandra, is often dominant in undisturbed grassland especially on the southern slope and the characteristic inflorescence can be seen throughout summer. It provides valuable grazing for both wild and domestic animals and because it is usually associated with other palatable grasses farmers regard it as an indicator of well-managed veld.
Also associated with healthy grazing is common thatchgrass, Hyparrhenia hirta, which has soft hairless leaves in early summer but later develops the familiar long woody stems used in roofing. Although useful to humans these late summer stems are not eaten by stock.
A number of flowers also grow on the slopes of the Magaliesberg. Among them are small lilies sending up inflorescences of yellow, white or blue flowers from their underground bulbs in spring. The use of bulbs by these plants provides useful protection from the frosts and fires of winter but they are much sought after by baboons and duiker. A typical example of these bulbous lilies is Ledebouria ovatifolia which is distinguished by its large purple-spotted leaves.
A very distinctive member of the lily family is the pineapple flower, Eucomis autumnalis, which is leafy-topped inflorescence in December that stands about 200mm tall. In the wild they seem to prefer situations, which are sheltered among large rocks.
The iris family is represented on open slopes by several very attractive species. In early spring when most of the veld is still dormant, the small blue and yellow flower of the tulp, Moraea thomsonii, emerges at the end of a leafless stalk. It flower only in the afternoons and bloom, which is poisonous to grazing animals, soon withers.
Alien Plant invasion is one of the most serious threats to the Magaliesberg.