110 years of protecting plants
Know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa's indigenous plants
We’re 110 years old!
That makes the Botanical Society of South Africa one of the oldest and most established environmental non-profit organisations in South Africa.
Since we were established in 1913, we have focused on caring for and protecting South Africa’s indigenous plants through our incredible members. Back then, BotSoc undertook this role by supporting national botanical gardens, of which Kirstenbosch was the first in the country.
Over the next 110 years, while the support for these gardens was maintained, our role and importance grew, to the point that today we work to inspire a South Africa where people love, protect and are custodians of indigenous plants.
You ARE BotSoc
To our members, whether you have joined us on our journey for a year, or for 60 years, you are BotSoc. Thank you for playing such an important role for nature and for the love of our natural world.
As BotSoc, we’re not done yet. In fact, the threats to our indigenous plants have never been as great as they are today. We’re still very much needed; and therefore, so are you. We hope you’ll join us on this ongoing journey to know, grow, protect and enjoy our indigenous plants.
110 years through the voices of our members
A lasting legacy
BotSoc has left a lasting legacy on our natural world. From the very beginning, when members helped to create botanical spaces for the public to enjoy; up to today, where we restore degraded habitat, volunteer to grow and protect plants, educate others on nature, and so much more, nature has felt our green touch.
Yet there’s still so much to do to prevent habitat destruction and likely plant (and therefore also animal) extinctions. That’s why we’ve launched our Heritage Circle – where you, too, can leave a lasting legacy for nature.
The Botanical Society’s Heritage Circle is a special group of people who feel as you do, that our efforts to preserve our rich and diverse flora – particularly the plants and landscapes unique to South Africa — must continue beyond our own lifetimes. That’s why they make a bequest, an extraordinarily powerful way to show their love for nature.
A call from our BotSoc Chairperson
Chairperson Kyra Lunderstedt shares more on BotSoc’s journey to date, and how each member can become more involved in helping to turn the tide of plant extinctions.
A journey through time:
BotSoc’s 110-year highlights
BotSoc has provided more than 100 years of support to botanical gardens across the biomes of South Africa. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) manages 11 of these national botanical gardens and BotSoc has branches which cover the geographic areas where these gardens are located.
And over the past 20 years, we’ve contributed more than R8m to garden development projects. But we’ve also provided support to other botanical gardens and nature spaces that the public can enjoy.
One of the largest contributions to turnkey infrastructural development was the Kirstenbosch Conservatory, built in 1996 and opened in 1997. Our incredible volunteers have contributed through many programmes, from guiding, to plant collections, plant sales, environmental education and much more.
BotSoc, in collaboration with the Mapula Trust and SANBI, support the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme. In fact, we’ve been key CREW supporters for the past 20 years.
To date CREW has hosted more than 1700 field trips with up to 87 citizen science groups’ activities supported annually. These citizen scientists record thousands of taxa of conservation concern. Their records feed into conservation action on the ground, by mapping important plant areas (IPA) and steering conservation outcomes to help nature be restored.
By working with partners, we’ve brought huge areas of biodiversity-rich, privately owned land into formal conservation management. For example, in KwaZulu-Natal alone, through our support for the Biodiversity Stewardship Programmes run by provincial conservation organisations, 152 288 hectares is now secured.
We’ve also helped to have four botanically significant nature reserves declared in KZN, bringing a further 2289 hectares of privately-owned land under legal protection. We provide botanical expertise on site assessments and land management. And we give post-declaration technical support to these newly declared nature reserves.
Awareness, capacity building and advocacy
BotSoc played and continues to play a key role at a leadership level in developing and implementing the National Strategy for Plant Conservation. This is South Africa’s foremost strategy to protect plants, which runs from 2021-2030.
We also reach plant and nature lovers through our flagship publication, Veld & Flora. In fact, Veld & Flora was first published in 1915. Since then, BotSoc has 310 issues on record, which we use to grow awareness of our rich plant diversity.
BotSoc has funded and endorsed 12 regional Wildflower Guides. These were created to encourage the public to explore important wildflower habitats across South Africa. More than 100 000 copies have been sold, while many more were donated to schools, universities and botanical gardens country-wide.
To mark the centenary of both Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and BotSoc in 2013, Plants in Peril was published. This gorgeous book featured 100 threatened plant species, produced with the help of CREW, to showcase the serious threats facing South Africa’s wildflower heritage. And there have been many more books and publications that BotSoc has supported over the 110 years, all with the goal of fostering a love for and connection to our plants.
The role of BotSoc’s volunteers is further exemplified by University of Cape Town botany lecturer and BotSoc member Edith Stevens who, with help from other BotSoc members, purchased Isoetes Vlei on the Cape Flats near Philippi in the early 1950s. She donated this to Kirstenbosch, helping protect a valuable remnant of Cape Flats habitat.
Preventing habitat loss
Over many decades BotSoc and committed members have campaigned against destructive development proposals. For example, we stopped a highway that was planned through Kirstenbosch in the 1970s. And in 1994, we helped prevent a new nuclear power station in the Agulhas Plain that would have decimated key wetlands.
Saving Important Plant Areas
and threatened species
Volunteer ‘hack’ groups led by BotSoc members are a regular feature, with various BotSoc branches helping to restore areas that have become heavily degraded. In fact, our Kogelberg Branch recently completed their 700th hack!
BotSoc has supported the SANBI Cape Flats Nature programme where many important plant areas were under threat of development. Not only did we help prevent developments, but our volunteers worked with communities here to provide conservation expertise.
Several interventions have been put in place to ensure the future survival of wild cycad populations in South Africa, and we’ve played a role along the way. We helped develop Biodiversity Management Plans for 11 Critically Endangered and 4 Endangered Encephalartos species. The plans include the innovative use of microdots (anti-theft devices) to secure wild populations.
We’re also working closely with partners to address the plant-poaching crisis, where hundreds of thousands of succulents are stolen from the wild every year. We’re in a unique position to help, not least through volunteer support to the national botanical gardens swamped with confiscated plant material.
And we’re working, in a major partnership project, with 137 traditional health practitioners from 14 villages in the Ehlanzeni district in Mpumalanga. Together we developed a pilot biodiversity management plan for six priority threatened medicinal plant species – and we’re proud to explore this area of important work at grassroots level.
Few people know that BotSoc’s pioneering work served as the inspiration for government’s ‘Working For’ programmes. In 1994, BotSoc initiated a ground-breaking pilot project to hire and train unemployed people under the new government’s Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) to help remove invasive alien plants in Devil’s Peak in Cape Town. This model was recognised by government, who then developed the renowned Working for Water programme.
In a BotSoc/SANBI collaboration project called Iziqalo, we’re now bringing promising young people into careers in nature. The project was piloted at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, where 12 young people have been hired to work in horticulture and conservation, while being taken on a journey of growth and development.
Subsequently this project has been rolled out with a further 30 participants across three national botanical gardens in the Cape: Kirstenbosch, Harold Porter and the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden.
Together with other environmental organisations, BotSoc has worked with the Development Bank of Southern Africa and SANBI on the Groen Sebenza programme to create green job opportunities for 800 unemployed matriculants and graduates, especially to encourage young adults from historically disadvantaged communities to take up careers in botany, horticulture and nature conservation.
“BotSoc has played a vital role in plant conservation for the past 110 years. And our members have been part of this journey – every step of the way. Since 1913, BotSoc members have proven just how much they care for nature; how they choose to give back for all that nature offers them. And we’re not done yet. Nature still needs us – even more now than ever before. So as a civil society, conservation organisation, we’re not going anywhere. Now we have our next 110 years of plant conservation coming up.”
– Antonia de Barros, General Manager
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