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A garden, a yard and a branch: A Garden Route story

NOV 8, 2023 | WRITTEN BY BOTSOC NATIONAL. PHOTOS BY MARTINA TREURNICHT

 

 

 

Above: The propagation yard of the Garden Route Botanical Garden in George, which was officially opened in 2013 with BotSoc and partners. Photo by Martina Treurnicht

 

It’s not possible to separate the history of the Garden Route Botanical Garden and the Botanical Society of South Africa. In fact, the Garden Route branch of the Botanical Society was formed in order to establish a botanical garden for the region.

It was through the vision of Prof Adré Boshoff that the Garden Route Botanical Garden ultimately came into existence. In 1992 he wrote a letter declaring that the Garden Route needs its own botanical garden. In order to realise this, the BotSoc Garden Route branch was formed the same year; and it took them only six years to find the funding, identify the location and help establish the garden, which opened to the public in 1998.

While the Garden Route branch is an impressive 31 years old, BotSoc itself is this year celebrating 110 years – making it the oldest and most established plant conservation organisation in South Africa.

 

Above: Getting a tour of the propagation facility with Martin Viljoen, chair of the GRBG. Photo by Martina Treurnicht
 

10 years of garden propagation

There’s also another anniversary currently being celebrated: That of the propagation yard in the Garden Route Botanical Garden. This propagation yard was officially opened in 2013, with BotSoc and partners providing the initial investment for the yard and the nursery. Ten years later, the yard continues to provide the garden with much-needed plants and planting material.

According to Pauline Cloete, Chair of the Garden Route branch of BotSoc, “Much of the success of the propagation yard was achieved by the hard-working staff and volunteers of the Garden Route Botanical Garden with helping hands of BotSoc members, volunteers and passionate plant people in the Garden Route area. In 2022 the BotSoc Garden Route Branch, Prof Adré Boshoff, with support from Keith Kirsten and Caroline Petersen and other anonymous donors collectively provided generous funding to further support and expand the propagation yard of the Garden Route Botanical Garden.”

 

Above: Ten years after its establishment, the Garden Route Botanical Garden continues to provide the garden with much-needed plants and planting material.  Photos by Martina Treurnicht

 

Exciting projects

She says, “These nursery volunteers and BotSoc members are still actively supporting the maintenance, caretaking and fundraising of the Garden Route Botanical Garden on an ongoing basis. Exciting projects include the installation of irrigation and heated beds for the propagation of local indigenous and endemic plant species that are important to conserve.”

Above: View of the Outeniqua mountains from the dam inside the Garden Route Botanical Garden. Photo by Rebecca Ryen

 

The globally significant Garden Route flora

The Garden Route branch of BotSoc plays a vital role in protecting some of the very special – and very threatened – plants that occur here. The Garden Route was added to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2017, to highlight the importance of the natural area.

Dr Martina Treurnicht, BotSoc’s Conservation Manager says, “BotSoc’s Conservation Manager says, “The Garden Route is a significant plant hotspot, home to many vegetation types, from fynbos and forests, to succulent Karoo and thicket biomes. Despite this, there is rapid urbanisation and development taking place here – which significantly threatens much of the natural beauty. Other threats include the ongoing spread of alien and invasive plants and land transformation and degradation.”

Above: Diosma aristata, Mossel Bay’s endemic buchu, is red listed as Critically Endangered. A new population was discovered during the City Nature Challenge. The species faces threats such as urban encroachment, alien invasive plants and human irreverence. Conserving the species has so far saved a pocket of fynbos and all its plants and creatures from development. Photo by Sandra Falanga

 

Critically Endangered vegetation types that occur here include Knysna Sand Fynbos, Cape Lowland Alluvial Fynbos and Langkloof Shale Renosterveld. But there are also many more threatened vegetation types and species, such as Diosma aristata, an endemic Buchu species that is at risk of extinction, and Disa newdigateae, an orchid that was believed to have become extinct but was recently rediscovered in the Garden Route National Park.

Crucial role

Any volunteers based in BotSoc’s Garden Route branch plays a crucial role in protecting indigenous plants here, by making use of citizen scientists to help monitor landscapes, working with municipalities to address urbanization in Important Plant Areas, and raising awareness of these threatened landscapes and plants.

Garden Route Branch

Due to the vast area covered by the branch, localised groups called ‘Twigs’ operate from George (including Wilderness), Knysna (including Sedgefield), Mossel Bay, and Plettenberg Bay (covering the Bitou municipal area).

1 Comment

  1. And don’t forget Pat Gillespie, Gonda Ellis, Eva Moltzen and others plant enthusiasts who first started planting unofficially back in the early 1980’s

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