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​How plants bring people together: Revival of a community garden

 

March 15, 2022 | Written and photographs by LoveGreen Communications and BotSoc team.

 

 

 

 

Plants can and do bring people from different walks of life together. At the Franschhoek Indigenous Medicinal Plants Demonstration Garden, gardeners and plant lovers came together recently, to flex their green fingers and plant medicinal and other special plants in this garden, situated in the centre of Franschhoek.

For the Botanical Society of South Africa’s General Manager, Antonia de Barros, BotSoc is built on this community involvement – for people to know, grow, protect and enjoy indigenous plants together, for nature.

 

Above: Bradly and Laura happily planting and watering.

“I can’t believe that so many people from such a variety of backgrounds and ages are here because of plants,”

she said at the event, held on 5 March 2022.

“It shows us how humans impact plants, but also how plants have an impact on humans through those special connections.”

 

Participants included the garden’s curator, Judah James, the Franschhoek Conservancy team, the Open Gardens Network, representatives from the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden, representatives from the  Franschhoek Tatler and the broader community, the BotSoc staff and the Stellenbosch Municipality Ward Councillor Reginald Pheiffer and officials, who all connected in planting in the Franschhoek soil together.

The spectacular Fan Aloe and Blushing Bride

And these weren’t just any species that were planted here – in an area that used to be home to Critically Endangered Swartland Alluvium Fynbos. Species included the Serruria florida, or Blushing Bride, a Critically Endangered fynbos flower that is popular in bouquets. The Fan Aloe, or Kumara plicatilis, the only tree aloe in the fynbos was also planted. This plant was donated by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and brought to Franschhoek from the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden. Other species planted were donated by the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden Nursery.

 Top threatened species

 of Franschhoek’s Swartland Alluvium Fynbos

These plants are from small remnant populations found on lowlands between Franschhoek, Helshoogte pass and Paarl and are found nowhere else on earth.

A rich history

The garden and the surrounding region enjoy a rich history – one that was celebrated during the day. According to BotSoc’s Conservation Manager, Rupert Koopman, the region was well used by indigenous people of the San and Khoekhoe groups. “Some of the plants used for medicine are in this very garden. Franschhoek’s old name Olifantshoek is testament to wilder times.”

More recently, the site had been left in a dysfunctional state after becoming an illegal dumpsite. The Cape Winelands branch of BotSoc, formed in 1988, honouring the late Anne Sutton, a dedicated BotSoc member,  was centred around this space, supporting the transition to what is also known today as the Peace Garden. Since this time, BotSoc has remained involved in supporting the garden.

 

Above: SANBI supported the initiative with a donation of plants which made all the difference. (Visit the SANBI National Botanical Garden in the Cape Winelands)

 

Incredibly special garden

Antonia said, “By getting people involved today at the garden, we hope to re-ignite not only interest in this incredibly special garden by those living in the Winelands district, but also to revive the Winelands BotSoc branch. We know people in the Winelands love plants and their natural spaces, and want to know, grow, protect and enjoy them. Now they can do this with the backing of the national Botanical Society.”

Get involved

Find out more about the Winelands branch of the Botanical Society, the fynbos and renosterveld of this area, and how you can get involved to protect it, here: www.botanicalsociety.org.za/branches/winelands/

 Get to know the useful and medicinal plants from this region, now revived in the garden:

We provide the common names in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Be sure to consult a traditional healer or healthcare practitioner if you are not certain.

 

Aloe ferox Bitter aloe / iKhala (Xhosa) / bitteraalwyn

A widespread useful plant with many uses, the sap has been sustainably harvested for centuries. This resin is important in cosmetics, treatment for arthritis and laxatives.

Elegia (Chondropetalum) tectorum  Dekriet

Fish Hoek dwarf form of the Cape hatching reed, used for roofs and shelters.

Eriocephalus africanus Kapokbos / Wild rosemary

This daisy is used as medicine for ailments such as coughs, colds, flatulence and colic, and as a diuretic. Also a wonderful culinary herb.

Melianthus major Honey flower / kruidjie-roer-my-nie / ubutyayi (Xhosa)

Due to its toxicity, the major use of this plant is for external purposes, such as a dressing for wounds, bruises and rheumatic joints.

Salvia africana Bloublom salie blue sage

A wonderful plant with many uses, including as a decoction for colic and indigestion, veterinary applications for cattle and a tea. Can also be used in the place of normal sage in the kitchen.

Tulbaghia capensis Wild garlic / wildeknoffel

A potent medicine for fever, colds, tuberculosis and stomach problems. The leaves make a great vegetable addition.

 

1 Comment

  1. Great to see that the little Peace And Medicinal Garden started by the late Ann Suuto, pioneer landscape architect, is still being cared for and thri ING. Thank you SANBI & Bot Soc

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