Know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa’s indigenous plants

ANNUAL REPORT 2023

Annual Report

2023

KNOW

GROW
Protect
ENJOY

Message from the Chairperson

The Botanical Society has had a remarkable 110-year journey and we have so much to be proud of. We have already left a lasting legacy – you need only look at our programmes and the incredible dedication of our volunteers and members to see this.

However, our work is not done! Given the many urgent threats to our plant world right now, we’re refocusing our efforts as a conservation civil society organisation, to ensure we align our role to the critical needs across South Africa.

That means that we’re entering a renewed phase, to continue our lasting legacy, both for nature, and for the people who value our botanical richness. To all our members, volunteers, partners and donors who have been involved in BotSoc, whether for a week or for 60 years, we thank you. You are BotSoc!

– Kyra Lunderstedt

General Manager’s Message

In all our 110 years, BotSoc’s role to protect our indigenous plants has never been more important. Given the rate of biodiversity loss, BotSoc plays a vital role as a civil society organisation. By working with partners, and through our incredible branches, our conservation reach cannot be understated. 

– Antonia de Barros

BotSoc’s Future – Emerging Pathways

Our Pathfinder Convention, in September 2022 gave us the opportunity to map the way forward while navigating through radical changes. Our Council, staff and branches from across the country came together to identify emerging pathways for a flourishing future.  Here are the priorities we decided on (scroll through the slider below):

1. Focus on plant conservation

The focus is on plant conservation by living our mantra in every programme and project that we embark on, whether it is to Know, Grow, Protect and Enjoy South Africa’s indigenous plants.

2. Plant conservation focus areas

Our plant conservation focus areas are as follows and these will steer our work, collaboration and resource mobilisation over the medium term:

  • Saving important plant areas and threatened species
  • Responding to the plant-poaching crisis
  • Stewardship through partnerships
  • Growing capacity and awareness
  • Youth development
  • Supporting botanical gardens and ex-situ and in-situ plant collections

3. Growing our legacy

Growing our legacy through a fundraising programme for sustainability and a focused effort to attract loyal members, especially our youth, who are motivated to become involved in our conservation work.

4. Enhance connection and collaboration

Enhance connection and collaboration across our branches to encourage quality member and public involvement in our programmes. We’ll focus on our impact both at grassroots level and at national level towards saving our ecosystems.

5. Our advocacy role

Developing our advocacy role and defining our core conservation positions on critical issues to support our mission.

1. Focus on plant conservation

The focus is on plant conservation by living our mantra in every programme and project that we embark on, whether it is to Know, Grow, Protect and Enjoy South Africa’s indigenous plants.

2. Plant conservation focus areas

Our plant conservation focus areas are as follows and these will steer our work, collaboration and resource mobilisation over the medium term:

  • Saving important plant areas and threatened species
  • Responding to the plant-poaching crisis
  • Stewardship through partnerships
  • Growing capacity and awareness
  • Youth development
  • Supporting botanical gardens and ex-situ and in-situ plant collections

3. Growing our legacy

Growing our legacy through a fundraising programme for sustainability and a focused effort to attract loyal members, especially our youth, who are motivated to become involved in our conservation work.

4. Enhance connection and collaboration

Enhance connection and collaboration across our branches to encourage quality member and public involvement in our programmes. We’ll focus on our impact both at grassroots level and at national level towards saving our ecosystems.

5. Our advocacy role

Developing our advocacy role and defining our core conservation positions on critical issues to support our mission.

CONSERVATION HIGHLIGHTS

1. Saving important plant areas and threatened species

Citizen science – CREW

As BotSoc, we are proud to have partnered with the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) since they were established 20 years ago. Now, two decades later, CREW members continue to play an invaluable role in protecting our threatened plant species.

20

years of CREW support

1700

field trips hosted to date

87

citizen science groups’ activities supported per year

%

of BotSoc members volunteer for CREW

BotSoc and Mapula Trust fund CREW operations & staff

Important Plant Areas

Kaveesha Naicker, former CREW KZN Node project officer, guided by Dr Lize von Staden of SANBI’s threatened species programme, have defined South Africa’s important areas of high plant diversity.

These botanically significant sites will be prioritised for plant monitoring and conservation.

They are sites with extraordinary botanical richness, sustain rare, threatened and socio-economically significant botanical species and are home to botanical species with restricted ranges in threatened ecosystems.

This lists 20 IPA sites in their area that need immediate conservation.

BotSoc’s next step is to use the IPAs to work with branches, members and CREW groups as part of our commitment to citizen science.

2. Responding to the plant-poaching crisis

Plant Poaching

More than 400 000 confiscated indigenous succulent plants are being cared for as a result of illegal plant poaching with support from various organisations, including BotSoc and SANBI. Our role is to provide support to ex-situ collections and restoration, as part of the response strategy, while BotSoc volunteers help with confiscated plants.

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  • The threats to succulent plants are overwhelming. Currently 36 single locality species are being targeted, as conservation organisations partner to save these species from extinction with funding from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released in July 2022, now includes 210 species of succulents that have been listed for the first time, due to the dual threats of illegal trade and climate change.
  • The genus Conophytum is especially heavily targeted.
  • BotSoc supports ex-situ collections and restoration, as part of the response strategy. We also provide a donation mechanism for people to help to support this work.

Get to know BotSoc’s role in saving succulents here.

Find out about the partnership’s activities to date.

Cycad micro-dotting

Cycad poaching has become so severe that some species are now extinct in the wild. Other species are teetering on the brink, with less than 10% of their original populations remaining. BotSoc has provided funding to SANBI’s Threatened Species Programme to boost the cycads’ chances of survival, by following the security sector in adopting tiny microdots as a deterrent.

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  • Each of these microscopic discs carries a laser-etched code visible under a microscope. Each different code links to unique information stored on a database linked to the localities of cycad populations.
  • One of the species prioritised is the Eastern Cape blue cycad (Encephalartos horridus), which is currently being heavily poached. Nearly 550 cycad stems have been marked so far.
  • Microdots have been deployed in four provinces in South Africa.
  • The five priority cycad populations already covered include one Critically Endangered and two Endangered species. Cycads that have been marked will be monitored regularly to check that the microdots withstand the elements.

Medicinal plants

At least seven out of 10 South Africans use traditional health remedies based on indigenous medicinal plants harvested in the wild. BotSoc has partnered with SANBI, the Agricultural Research Council, the South African National Parks (SANParks), Mpumalanga Parks & Tourism and the Endangered Wildlife Trust as part of a Global Environment Fund project on land use. 

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  • Working with us were 137 traditional health practitioners from 14 villages in the Ehlanzeni district, Mpumalanga. We all joined forces to develop a pilot biodiversity management plan for six priority threatened medicinal plant species.
  • Most of the traditional healers involved harvested naturally occurring medicinal plants from communal lands in the Thaba Chweu local municipality.
  • Over-exploitation would make traditional healing methods less available to the region’s people.
  • The Agricultural Research Council’s tropical research centre propagated four of the six priority medicinal plants for cultivation in the home gardens of traditional healers in Thaba Chweu and Bushbuckridge local municipalities.
  • There is potential to work on another 25 species that they consider priority medicinal species which have drastically declined on communal land.

3. Stewardship through partnerships

Support to biodiversity stewardship

TECHNICAL INPUT 

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BotSoc supports and provides technical input with dedicated expertise through Isabel Johnson to the Biodiversity Stewardship Programmes run by provincial conservation agencies, especially in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

Formal protection

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Very significant areas (152 288 ha in KZN between 2009 and 2023; 406 852 ha in the Western Cape between 2003 and 2022) of biodiversity-rich, communal and privately owned land have been included in formal conservation management.

4 NATURE RESERVES

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BotSoc has successfully declared four botanically significant nature reserves in KZN (2 289 ha), and has been closely involved with other KZN stewardship organisations, giving botanical and ecological input to these partners throughout both the declaration and post-declaration management processes.

STEWARDSHIP PARTNERS

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Our biodiversity stewardship partners include Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Natural Resources Division, Birdlife South Africa, Conservation Outcomes, Endangered Wildlife Trust and WWF South Africa.

Local stewardship in action

The BotSoc Algoa Branch is demonstrating how stewardship can be translated to a much smaller and local scale. They are custodians of the valuable plants and animals populating patches of land with their “Adopt-A-Plot” initiative. Three plots of indigenous vegetation in the Gqeberha suburbs have been “adopted” by the Algoa Branch, which they protect through alien clearing and monitoring.

BOTSOC IN ACTION:
HACKING GROUPS

Many of our BotSoc branches work on the ground to protect their indigenous plants, for example via invasive alien hacking groups. These groups are proof of how BotSoc branches are working beyond the boundaries of national botanical gardens. The Kogelberg branch of BotSoc has already reached its 700th hack. In the past year, they broke another record: they celebrated their 60th anniversary. This makes them the oldest hacking group in South Africa.

 

4. Growing capacity and awareness

BotSoc hosts a plant conservation webinar every month, partnering with CREW and SANBI. Here we share important information that relates to our mantra: To know, grow, protect and enjoy our indigenous plants. All our webinars are available on BotSoc’s website or on YouTube

Botanical publications

Veld & Flora

This year the digital format of our Veld & Flora magazine has been well received by many members with its fresh format and improved legibility. The printed version is well known and has been loved since our first issue in 1915. However, it has become one cost area that has required review. BotSoc needs to review the format and length of our Veld & Flora publication and evolve with our changing environment. We look forward to taking the next step on our journey with the magazine with our amazing editor Patricia McCracken and other service providers. 

Plants of the Baviaanskloof

We provide support to many authors and publishers to ensure that botanical, social and cultural knowledge is shared on important plant groups and areas of botanical significance. This year BotSoc supported Plants of the Baviaanskloof by Douglas Euston-Brown and Magriet Kruger. This book covers an area tucked away in the southwestern corner of the Eastern Cape in a narrow valley, flanked by the Baviaanskloof and Kouga mountain ranges. BotSoc is proud to have supported this work as it is vital to ensure that our rich floral heritage is documented across the country to make our diversity more accessible for all. Get your copy here.

RAISING AWARENESS

Expanding Reach, Diversifying and Growing Interest

BotSoc is active on our digital platforms, including our social media, website and regular emailers we send to members. And the platforms are well supported. In the past year, here’s what happened:

Showcasing our BotSoc community 

Our marketing strategy sets out our marketing focus over the medium term.

We work here to showcase our BotSoc community – those who value indigenous plants, just as BotSoc values each member. 

We’re now aligning our new emerging pathways with our strategy focal areas, which include: Strengthening our advocacy role, growing and retaining members, supporting branch communication and supporting fundraising. 

Our on-the-ground activities include: 

  • Our monthly conservation emailer and webinar.
  • Active digital presence (including social media & web)
  • Media presence – via national & branches
  • Annual report
  • Offline presence, and much more.

 

Environmental Impact Assessment training course

“When we found out about a mining application in an important conservation area, we turned to the incredibly helpful EIA course that BotSoc has made available to members. This course allowed us to better understand the EIA process, and to respond accordingly. It’s a helpful step-by-step guide that empowers members to deal with these often very devastating applications.”

– Ross Kettles, Nuwejaars River Nature Reserve

BotSoc has been proactive in ensuring that we make an online course available on EIA processes to the public on our website. This year 50 participants signed up for the online course from June 2022.

5. Youth development

Growing branches

A vibrant group of young nature enthusiasts have approached BotSoc with plans to restart the Limpopo Branch. We look forward to supporting them in the coming year to identify projects aligned to the BotSoc conservation themes and focus areas.

The Thohoyandou National Botanical Garden, Limpopo was opened in 2022 by SANBI and is a great addition to showcase the plant diversity of the area, the cultural value of indigenous plants and especially the trees that dominate the landscape.

Youth Garden Maintenance and Development work experience

The Youth Garden Maintenance Programme, which began in September 2021, aims to train unemployed young people in skills to build a career in botanical and other green industries. BotSoc funding enables SANBI to offer them short-term contracts giving work experience in horticulture, conservation and landscape restoration.

So far 43 trainees have been placed in botanical gardens across the country and completed the programme in August 2022.

A second intake of youths has now taken place. These young people are enjoying similar opportunities in collaboration with the SANBI national botanical gardens to expose these plant lovers to a career path in horticulture.

Pretoria

Meet one of our BotSoc youth champions based in the Pretoria National Botanical Garden.

Kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch NBG curator Werner Voigt chats to some of the youth champions in his garden. 

Iziqalo – New beginnings

Iziqalo is a pilot project in which 12 young people are receiving key life skills along with technical skills as these would-be horticulturists receive hands-on training from SANBI at national botanical gardens. It is the brainchild of Caroline Petersen, former BotSoc Council member. Thank you Caroline!

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  • BotSoc has partnered with Cape Town-based NGO, Sustainability Matters, in collaboration with SANBI to make this pilot project possible. According to Moza Mzanywa, Executive Director of Sustainability Matters, “Our goal was to help the Iziqalo participants learn more about themselves and how they interact with others, as well as what it means to relate to our Earth and to take care of it sustainably for the future of all people.”
  • With the support of the DG Murray Trust, this project will be expanded beyond the pilot phase in the coming financial year.

6. Supporting botanical gardens and collections

BotSoc has collaborated with the national botanical gardens through the organisation that owns and manages them – initially known as the National Botanical Institute and now SANBI. Our core area of collaboration has always been the national botanical gardens across the country with our associated BotSoc branches working very closely with their respective associated national botanical gardens on specific projects supporting ex-situ and in-situ conservation, garden development and maintenance, volunteer programmes, plant sales, etc. Learn more about our ex-situ collections.

In the past year, we were particularly proud of the developments in the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester. Here BotSoc worked with partners to support a brand new Braille Trail. This trail in the garden allows visually-impaired visitors to connect with indigenous plants in a fun, interactive way. Visitors can also enjoy poetry by some of South Africa’s most prominent poets about the beautiful Breede River Valley along the trail, through the clever use of technology. Experience the new Braille Trail here.

BotSoc also supports other botanical gardens and green spaces that are not part of the SANBI-fold. In the past year, we worked with partners in a number of exciting projects:

  • The Leeuwenhof Estate: BotSoc joined a budding horticultural team to carefully plan and re-introduce indigenous plants to the 329-year old Leeuwenhof Estate, home of the Western Cape Premier and his family. Themed sections have been introduced to the garden, showcasing the indigenous plants. Storyboards also accompany each section to explain the importance of each species.
  • Franschhoek Indigenous Medicinal Plants Demonstration Garden: Gardeners and plant lovers came together in 2022, to flex their green fingers and plant medicinal and other special plants in this garden, situated in the centre of Franschhoek. BotSoc works with the garden’s curator, Judah James and other partners to support this garden. 

FUNDRAISING

Fundraising for Sustainability

Our Fundraising programme will be focused on:

BotSoc’s sustainability will depend on how successful we all are in working together as loyal members, even if much fewer alongside staff and Council towards securing resources for our conservation work.

A Fundraising Plan is in draft format and will be workshopped with our Branch Committees in August 2023 to ensure a streamlined approach over the medium term.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS FOR YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH 2023

The accompanying summary financial statements provides an overview of the consolidated results of the Botanical Society of SA (BotSoc) and its branches for the year ended 31 March 2023.

BotSoc revenue climbed steeply as members rushed to renew their final membership that includes free gate entry to the Botanical Gardens. This can be seen in the increase of members from 14 695 in March 2022 to 15 235 members in March 2023.

DOWNLOAD TREASURER’S REPORT

DOWNLOAD ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

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Income from investments also improved as we switched our investments out of cash to capitalise on the expected recovery post the Covid era. Unfortunately, donations and bequests, which will have to become our primary revenue source in the future, did not achieve the 2022 figure. Lastly, sales of goods saw good growth in the 2023 financial year as well. For more information on the breakdown of the numbers, please refer to the Detailed Income Statement in the annual financial statements on page seventeen for BotSoc excluding Kirstenbosch and for fully consolidated numbers with Kirstenbosch, see page nineteen.

INCOME & EXPENSES

Our organisation’s operations are currently supported through multiple revenue streams that encompass member subscriptions, contributions, legacies, event income, fundraising efforts, and profits from book sales. In addition, we also accrue income through interest and dividends on our investments. In 2023, after accounting for the cost of sales, we saw a total income of R10.59 million. This marked a growth of 19% compared to the previous year’s revenue of R8.92 million.

However, as pointed out in the Going Concern note within the audited financial statements, we project a substantial downturn in Membership Fees for the financial year of 2024 and beyond. Given the unpredictable circumstances, it is challenging to provide a concrete forecast, so we have budgeted a conservative amount of R200 000 per year for the coming two years which translates to 1 000 loyal members paying R200 per annum. The Society cannot sustain itself under these conditions in the long term.

Accordingly, this situation demands significant strategic and operational shifts, which our Council has already set in motion. Given that most non-profit organisations heavily rely on donations, our Council deemed it prudent to adopt a professional fundraising approach. The initial step towards this was inducting a retired senior WWF International fundraiser into the Council, who has played a vital role in charting out our fundraising strategy. This includes the appointment of a dedicated professional fundraiser.

Fortunately, the Society is one of very few NPO’s blessed with a substantial war-chest which will provide the necessary runway needed for such a massive change in operations pivoting to fund-raising as its primary revenue stream. Fund-raising is not a quick fix and requires time to develop relationships with conservation focused corporates and passionate individuals fortunate enough to be able to leave money in their wills or donate directly to the Society. Accordingly, Council has budgeted operational losses for the next two financial years.

As part of the fund-raising strategy, our fund-raising experts have jointly recommended an update to the designation of the General Manager to Chief Executive Officer. This repositioning is important to ensure that potential donors and benefactors recognize that they are engaging with the key decision-maker, a factor that can significantly impact the success of a non-profit organization.

REVENUE

OPERATING EXPENSES

ASSETS & LIABILITIES

In addition to operational assets and liabilities, the Botanical Society holds substantial investment sums and cash balances together valued at R27.05 million at year end. This is slightly less than the R29.12 million held at the beginning of the year and is as a direct result of the transfers from the SANBI/BotSoc Partnership Fund and other conservation commitments. This healthy nest egg comprises mainly a portfolio of listed shares and bonds plus some cash deposits.

What this means is that at 31 March 2023, after offsetting the amounts we owe against the assets we own, and taking account of all the various sources of income received and expenditure incurred, the Society’s aggregate reserves, or Equity, stood at R29 million. Of this total, R13 million is held in reserves designated for specific purposes and R14.04 million is held as a general reserve.

BotSoc remains in a sound financial position and has adequate financial resources to meet its immediate cash requirements, and to continue as a going concern for the medium term. The loss of the free access to the SANBI National Botanical Gardens will create significant challenges for the Society in the future but Council has already implemented a very focussed fund-raising strategy that will start to bear fruit in the medium term.

BotSoc has slashed membership prices from 1 April 2023 in order to broaden its appeal more widely across South Africa with the aim of enticing truly passionate plant enthusiasts to join this critically important institution, one of the few entities conserving and promoting South Africa’s unique but highly threatened flora. For those of you who only purchased BotSoc membership for the free garden entry, I urge you to remain loyal members, volunteer in your areas, and consider donating or bequeathing to the Society so that we can fund the important projects required to protect our natural heritage.

Thank you

 

To every member, our sincere thanks for joining us on this journey to know, grow, protect and enjoy indigenous plants. After all, you are BotSoc!

BotSoc’s conservation work is only possible through the incredible donors and partners that we work with.

Our donors & partners

We are incredibly grateful to the following donors and partners for joining us for another year – as we together work to make the world a better place, both for our indigenous plants, and for those that rely on them.

To our hardworking National BotSoc team, BotSoc Branch Committees and our service providers, thank you!

Hours

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