"Committed to the conservation
of a unique wild flower heritage"

Botanical Society of South Africa
E info@botanicalsociety.org.za

T +27 (0)21 797-2090
F +27 (0)21 797-2376





Office hours Monday to Thursday 08:30 to 16:30. Fridays 08:30 to 16:00. Closed daily between 1 and 2, weekends and Public Holidays

Please visit the bookshops at Kirstenbosch for membership matters whilst Head Office is closed. Online joining can be accessed via www.botanicalsociety.org.za.


Pretoria

Activities

Notices

Leonotis Interest Group - Witbank
Leonotis is a new and vigorous BotSoc bud, serving the northeastern parts of South Africa – hoping to thrive under the guidance of the Pretoria Branch! For more information contact Pieter Joubert 072 227 4197 or pcvjoubert@yahoo.com

Botsocexplore: botsocexplore@gmail.com
Botsocexplore was launched earlier this year and serves as a communication mechanism for the Pretoria Branch. Members can use the Botsoc explore e-mail address to contact the branch committee or to post and receive interesting bits of environmental news, events and scientific articles. Botsocexplore is managed by committee member Stephan Veldsman who screens and distributes all material submitted to the address. Get in touch with Stephan if you want to be included in the BotsocExplore mailing list.

Photography Competition
The Pretoria Branch proudly assisted the Pretoria National Botanical Garden with the Photography Competition to celebrate the Garden’s 50th year. Young and old took part in this very successful and enjoyable event. Go to www.sanbi.org to view all the winning photographs.

Volunteer activities

1. Mesemb or Vygie atlassing

If you are interested in receiving training to assist SANBI with mesemb atlassing in your free time contact Sandra at the numbers given below.

2. Assistant Education Officers
The Pretoria National Botanical Garden is urgently looking for bilingual (Afrikaans & English) individuals to become volunteer Assistant Educators to help with education programmes presented to school groups in the Pretoria NBG. Volunteers will be required to be available on Mondays for planning and feedback purposes as well as at least twice a week to lead school groups.

For more information contact Sandra - 012 346 2425/082 578 4953 or falanga@dorea.co.za

MEMBERSHIP SERVICES

The elected Pretoria Branch Committee administers affairs in accordance with the corporate protocol issued by the Botanical Society of South Africa. To this effect, the Committee follows the Society’s Branch Manual in the application of accepted norms, values and standards associated with local Branch governance. An annual branch levy received from the Society’s Head Office at Kirstenbosch, Cape Town, is employed in financing all services to the local Branch constituency. These funds are used in the general administration of the Branch, membership recruitment and retention; Branch publicity, editing, production and distribution of the Branch newsletter as well as expenses associated with Branch activities or events.

Using statistics obtained from periodic questionnaires issued to Branch members, the Committee has achieved a successful formula for maintaining a satisfactory level of service based on the membership profile. Some of the standing measures currently implemented include the regular Branch newsletter as well as various monthly activities for members such as topical presentations by experts in various fields of natural history, organised visits to local sites of botanical interest, opportunities for volunteer action as well as Branch social events. Being driven by local demand all activities and events organised by the Branch are well-supported by the membership.

Members are informed of all scheduled Branch activities and events by means of the newsletter, which is issued in March, June and September each year. These events are also announced in the Society’s quarterly journal Veld & Flora. The Branch newsletter also reports on past events, pertinent news from within the Branch, corporate Society matters, volunteer action and developments in the Pretoria National Botanical Garden.

PRETORIA BRANCH PROJECTS

In 1994, the Pretoria Branch introduced music to the Pretoria National Botanical Garden as a means of raising funds for Garden development projects. Mr. Simon Cooper, himself a professional musician with the then State Theatre Orchestra in Pretoria and a member of the Branch Committee was the main inspiration behind bringing together all the elements to make the Garden Picnic Concerts a highlight on fortnightly Sundays between May and September each year with sponsorship from the famous supermarket chain, Pick’n Pay. He found some guidance in similar initiatives in other National Botanical Gardens such as Kirstenbosch, but the potent injection of local talent and support soon rendered the Pretoria event with an undeniable character of its own. The concerts served as a reliable generator of revenue and means of attracting public interest to the Garden until 2001 when the project had reached a stage of maturity for responsibility to be transferred to the former National Botanical Institute (NBI), now the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The Branch could therefore proceed to focus its sights on other projects.

In 1996, the Branch launched its proposal on a series of projects to be undertaken in support of the emerging development campaign of the NBI in the ensuing ten years. Amongst the projects completed in the Garden with funding from the Pretoria Branch include the Botanical Society pavilion at the original tea garden, the concert stand that was completed in successive phases, the medicinal garden, the Society Clubhouse and more than a thousand etiquettes for botanical exhibits in the Garden.

In 1998, the Branch embarked on a series of trial botanical expeditions to test the feasibility of supporting plant-collecting excursions of SANBI’s National Herbarium. The Branch consequently launched privately funded pilot expeditions to the Richtersveld, Northern Cape in 1999, the Madimbo Corridor, and Limpopo in 2000 and the Soutpansberg, Limpopo in 2001. A small number of volunteers from the Branch membership accompanied by a SANBI representative constituted expedition companies in each instance. The purpose of these pilot expeditions was to test the ability of the Branch to provide competent volunteer, scientific and logistic fielded support as a meaningful capacity multiplier to the National Herbarium.

Following these trials, a series of four plant-collecting expeditions were dispatched as part of Flora of the Eastern Cape Province - a SANBI botanical research project. This project, which commenced late in 2002, was undertaken in association with the Pretoria Branch, the provincial government and universities of the Eastern Cape. The project aims to map and record the more than 8,300 species of plants native to the Eastern Cape Province. The work will be published after 2009 as a comprehensive volume listing the various plant species in the Eastern Cape and their current distribution. There is also an underlying intention in this and parallel publications to promote eco-tourism in some of the more remote extremities of the Eastern Cape by highlighting the diversity of species and habitat. Expeditions jointly sponsored by the Pretoria Branch, business and SANBI were launched to the Baviaanskloof in 2003, the Noorsveld in 2004, the Katberg region in 2006 and the Witteberg in 2007. Each expedition company was recruited largely from a corps of experienced volunteers of the Pretoria Branch lead by botanical taxonomist Dr Christien Bredenkamp of SANBI.

Baviaanskloof Plant Collection Expedition (January 2003)
It was decided to regard the main road passing through the Baviaanskloof as a transect through the various biomes of the region. En route we collected in Forest, Valley and Mountain Bushveld (Thicket biome), Grassland and Fynbos. To prevent duplication, we divided into smaller groups collecting in different vegetation types. Plants were collected against the mountain slopes, on the stream banks and we also had the opportunity of driving up the mountain to an overnight hut, overlooking the renowned Cock’s Comb mountain peaks. Our various groups collected herbs, monocotyledons, ferns and trees as well as shrubs, completing the plant pressing in the evenings and often late at night.

Noorsveld Plant Collection Expedition (November 2004)
After leaving Pretoria on 6 November, the expedition operated around Steytlerville, Wolwefontein and Jansenville south of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape Nama Karoo from 7-13 November 2004. The Noorsveld Expedition derived its name from the dry-land vegetation type found in these parts where the cactus-like Noorsdoring, a species of Euphorbia, is amongst the more dominant of thorny succulent plants.

Katberg Plant Collection Expedition (February - March 2006)
The expedition operated in the Mpofu Nature Reserve in the Katberg north of Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape from 26 February to 3 March 2006. The diverse habitat ranges from grassland to valley thicket and forest.

Witteberg Plant Collection Expedition (February - March 2007)
From 25 February to 4 March 2007 the expedition operated in the Lady Grey district in the Witteberg of the Eastern Cape. The area is particularly rich in plant life due to the diverse habitat ranging from grassland to alpine vegetation.

CONSERVATION

There are some 20,000 species of plants indigenous to South Africa of which about 1,400 are threatened with extinction according to the Red Data list of plants of South Africa. Although many of the habitats in which populations of these threatened plants are found fall within formally protected areas, there are populations that survive on privately owned land used for farming, mining, road reserves, development and the like. Magaliesberg – with some close ups of more attractive local red data species)

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) launched its Threatened Species Programme (TSP) in 2006 aimed at facilitating the conservation of the nation’s rare and endangered species. The TSP is produced an updated and comprehensive national Red Data List for South African plant species, which was completed in electronic format during 2006.

One of the challenges facing the TSP is the deficiency of information on rare, remote and newly described species as well as the impact of threats such as land transformation, over-utilisation, alien plant invasion and climate change in specific areas. The TSP’s Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) project provides a solution to this problem. CREW is made up largely of members of the public who volunteer to undergo training in plant identification and then collect much-needed data on threatened plants in their local areas.

So far, about twelve interest groups and communities representing about 250 individuals in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga have become involved in this challenging and enjoyable project and are actively participating in the conservation of their plant resources. With funding from the international Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund in 2006 and alliance with the Botanical Society of South Africa, SANBI’s CREW programme manager, Ms Domitilla Raimondo, is currently expanding efforts also in Gauteng, Limpopo and Kwazulu-Natal. This forms part of the in situ flora conservation effort also of the Pretoria Branch of the Society.

CREW needs the assistance of volunteers in collecting information on the status of threatened plants locally. Individuals, who wish to join the project, may contact Domitilla at Raimondo@sanbi.org, telephone (012) 843-5283.

The Pretoria Branch also provides capacity in leading the proceedings of the Northern Areas Flora Conservation Reference Committee, which aims to focus action in conservation partnership programmes of the Botanical Society in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. The Branch also forms alliances with civil action groups involved in urban conservation programmes mainly in the Faerie Glen Nature Reserve, Groenkloof Nature Reserve and in the protection of patches of natural habitat in the Pierre van Ryneveld residential area. The Branch further performs the role of representing the Botanical Society as an interested and affected party and in this sense provides measured economically, socially and environmentally responsible comments on planned development projects as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process.

The Pretoria Branch continues to provide material support to SANBI’s Pretoria National Botanical Garden and its role as an ex situ botanical conservation agency. Deemed amongst the most extensive repositories of live botanical specimens associated with the world’s Afro-Tropic bio-geographic region, the Pretoria National Botanical Garden exhibits live-collections representing the temperate African grassland and savannah biomes as well as Madagascar. The Pretoria Branch has been closely allied in ex situ conservation operations of the Garden in having provided funding for the development of a medicinal garden display in 1999 and more recently also toward a demonstration garden display completed in 2007.

The Branch further facilitated the local development of a natural grassland feature in the Pretoria National Botanical Garden by providing professional advice in producing a conservation management plan. This relic habitat has long been acknowledged as a reliable representation of the local temperate grassland plant communities. At least twelve grass species along with terrestrial orchids; other bulbous plants, forbs and succulents can be seen here in their natural setting. Smaller animals such as duiker antelope, scrub hare, yellow mongoose, porcupine, African hedgehogs, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates complement this ecosystem.

Working in collaboration with SANBI, the Department of Water Affairs & Tourism, and provincial conservation authorities, volunteers from the Branch were involved in salvaging live specimens of endemic plant species destined to be lost on conclusion of the planned Steelpoort Dam development. These specimens were re-introduced to the Pretoria National Botanical Garden.

VOLUNTEERS

The Society is essentially a membership-driven organisation with strong impetus provided by volunteers. Volunteers are active not only in the general administration of the Pretoria Branch, but also serve as an important capacity multiplier to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), more specifically the Pretoria National Botanical Garden and the National Herbarium in the local context. In this sense, the Pretoria Branch delivers up to 1800 volunteer hours each year, which can be equated to a monetary value in the order of R250, 000-00.

The Pretoria Branch Committee has therefore established a volunteer action portfolio that is co-ordinated by Mr. Glynn Williams. Apart from volunteers elected to serve on the Branch Committee, members from the broader constituency support SANBI in the following areas of Branch volunteer action:

Garden Nursery
Volunteers meet at 09:00am on Wednesday mornings to assist nursery staff at the Pretoria National Botanical Garden in the propagation and care of live botanical collections.

National Herbarium
Volunteers also provide assistance as required by the National Herbarium in the preparation and care of preserved herbarium specimens or collections obtained during plant-collecting expeditions. Some of the volunteers are active in processing and cataloguing photographs for the Herbarium’s Photo Library.

SANBI Plant Collecting Expeditions
A pool of volunteers is active in plant collecting expeditions launched by SANBI’s National Herbarium in partnership with the Pretoria Branch. SANBI staff instructs Branch volunteers in the methods of fieldwork to build the required levels of capacity among these individuals. The Branch-sponsored expeditions dispatched to specific study areas identified by SANBI are usually launched for a period of one week each year. Costs associated with participation by individual volunteers in such excursions are subsidised by the Branch to a rate of just more than 60%. Some of these volunteers extend their services also in assisting the National Herbarium staff in the processing of collected plant material.

Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW)

The CREW project provides a solution to the prevailing deficiency of information on rare, remote and newly described species as well as the impact of threats to plant biodiversity in specific areas. CREW is made up largely of members of the public who volunteer to undergo training in plant identification and then collect much-needed data on threatened plants in their local areas. With funding from the international Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund in 2006 and alliance with the Botanical Society of South Africa, SANBI’s CREW programme manager, Domitilla Raimondo, is currently expanding efforts also in Gauteng, Limpopo and Kwazulu-Natal. This forms part of the in situ flora conservation effort also of the Pretoria Branch of the Society. CREW needs the assistance of volunteers in collecting information on the status of threatened plants locally. Individuals, who wish to join the project, may contact Domitilla at Raimondo@sanbi.org, telephone (012) 843-5283.

FUNDRAISING

A rather serendipitous windfall ignited the fundraising campaign that was to ensue shortly after inception of the Pretoria Branch in 1992, when a substantial bequest from the estate of the late Mr. A.J.N. Stephansen was received. Whilst half of the initial bequest was employed in the development of the Pretoria National Botanical Garden in accordance with the conditions, estate trustees invested remaining capital for a period of ten years before releasing the funds for use by the Branch in 2002.

The annual Garden Picnic Concert seasons proved to be successful in raising funds for the Pretoria Branch from 1994 onwards. The project and established formula for organising the concerts and associated sponsorship was however transferred to the Garden in 2001 with the revenue accumulated until then being held in trust with the former Botanical Society Development Fund for the National Botanical Institute (NBI).

The Development Fund served as a corporate repository for proceeds raised by the Society for Branch-supported capital development projects in National Botanical Gardens of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). This mechanism served for some time, also in the Pretoria National Botanical Garden in developing infrastructure and highlighting the brand of the Botanical Society in its alliance with SANBI. Projects supported by the Society’s Development Fund in the Pretoria National Botanical Garden since 1992 can be listed as follows:

  • The Botanical Society Pavilion (1992)
  • The Concert Stand (1993-1996)
  • The Medicinal Garden (1999)
  • The Botanical Society Clubhouse (2004)
  • The Demonstration Garden (2007)
From 2001 onwards, significant amounts of government poverty relief funding were allocated to the Pretoria National Botanical Garden development campaign. These substantial contributions from government rather diluted any of the traditional allocations that had been made by the Society’s Development Fund. Whereas some of the funds could still be used to complement government contributions in promoting the signature of the Society in the Garden, the former emphasis of the Development Fund on capital development in the Garden has expanded to include support also in such areas as SANBI conservation, research and environmental education programmes.

Currently, the Branch launches dedicated fundraising campaigns for specified projects. The Branch follows an approach of augmenting initial funding provided from own reserves with appropriate sponsor or donor funding from partners in government, business or civil society sectors. This approach has proven to be effective in launching the Flora of the Eastern Cape series of plant-collecting expeditions with funding partners as follows:
  • GrassTech
  • Toyota SA
  • Daimler-Chrysler
  • Ultimate African Tours
  • Wiel Automotive Magazine
  • Aliman Aluminium Products
  • CHEMC Environmental
  • CSIR-BioChemtek
  • Mpho Rona Construction
  • Hikers’ Paradise
  • SANBI

HISTORY OF THE PRETORIA BRANCH


The history of the Branch is inextricably linked to that of the Pretoria National Botanical Garden. The history of the Garden can be traced back to 1946 when the portion of land straddling the Silverton Ridge in use by the University of Pretoria at the time, was transferred to the erstwhile Botanical Research Institute (BRI) of the Department of Agriculture. The land had fallen into disuse for the purposes of the University’s experimental farm as a result of the occurrence of so-called ‘gifblaar’ or poison leaf (Dichapetalum cymosum) on the estate, which rendered pasture hazardous to livestock.

The BRI used the estate for purposes of research amongst others to develop reliable monitoring methods for the management of natural grasslands as pasture. Some of the fundamental principles in grassland ecology emerged from groundbreaking fieldwork carried out by acclaimed BRI researchers on site in the 1960s.

By 1989, the BRI had become the National Botanical Institute (NBI) and the research garden was inaugurated as the youngest of the eight National Botanical Gardens in South Africa with Mr. Hans Heilgendorff as the first curator. Having experienced the benefits of support from an affiliate branch of the Botanical Society during his tenure previously in Betty’s Bay as curator of the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden, Mr. Heilgendorff soon rallied support from forty-five local plant lovers in establishing the Pretoria Branch of the Society at an inaugural meeting on 27 June of 1992 with Mr. Willie Marneveck being elected as the first chairman. Efforts of the young branch were soon directed toward assisting the curator in the challenge of transforming the estate from a rather stark research-based garden with limited appeal to the public to one that would feature progressively as a local tourist destination and agency for exhibiting the splendid botanical biodiversity of the north eastern interior.

The Branch continues to support the local National Botanical Garden mostly through volunteer action in such areas as assistance in the Garden nursery and to the National Herbarium. Over the years, the Branch has financed various capital developments in the Pretoria National Garden to include the Botanical Society pavilion at the original tea garden, the concert stand (completed in successive phases), the medicinal garden, the Botanical Society Clubhouse at the Visitors’ Centre and the demonstration garden. The Branch also provides funds for purchasing the etiquettes used for labeling live exhibits in the Garden.

Today, the Pretoria Branch brandishes a local constituency of roughly 500 members who enjoy a dynamic programme of activities organised by the Committee. These services to the Branch membership encompass diverse monthly activities such as presentations by experts in various fields of natural history, organised visits to local sites of botanical interest as well as Branch social events, all of which are communicated to members via the Branch newsletter.