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

Our Conservation Work

BotSoc champions biodiversity conservation in South Africa to protect our extraordinary plant diversity and ecosystems. 

Cycad Project

Cycads are one of the oldest surviving plant groups on the planet. They have been around for more than 350 million years – since the time of the dinosaurs. They have survived multiple mass extinctions and a plethora of environmental changes. Today they are sadly one the world’s most threatened plant groups.

Cycad species

South Africa has 38 cycad species, 37 species of Encephalartos and one Stangeria species. The threat ratings on the Red List of South African plants for these cycads are:

– Extinct in the wild: 3
– Critically endangered: 12
– Endangered: 4
– Vulnerable: 9
– Near threatened: 7

The greatest threat to cycads is illegal poaching and collection from the wild to supply the global horticultural trade.

The Cycad Project is part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ national strategy and action plan for managing and conserving cycads within South Africa. The Botanical Society supports various components of the strategy from its educational reserves and through funds raised by the Woolworths Bags4Good initiative. Other partners involved in the project include: SANBI, the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the Western Cape Primary Schools Programme (PSP). The KZN Stewardship Programme also supports aspects of the Cycad Project.

A key project output has been the educational resources ‘Learning about Cycads: A Guide to Environmental Activities’, funded by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust through the Botanical Society. This combination of a colourful and informative booklet with accompanying posters encourages learners to understand cycads’ age, their life cycle and biology as well as why cycads are threatened species that need to be conserved.

This BotSoc publication is in line with the National Strategy for Plant Conservation’s target 14: to incorporate the importance of plant diversity and the need for plant conservation into communication, education and public awareness programmes. A total of 25 000 books and posters were printed and are now used in training programmes around the country, including at South Africa’s national botanical gardens.

Wild cycad populations

BotSoc are supporting SANBI in a project that seeks to implement innovative marking measures to protect highly threatened wild cycad populations from poaching.

Conservation Programme 





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