Veld & Flora Feature



Give back for joy



Give back for joy



Above: BotSoc committee member Emma Ferreira helps learners from Olympia Primary School, Bloemfontein, put their grass specimens in a plant press, watched by teacher Godfrey Kemp.


You want to make more connections in BotSoc’s community of Plant People, get the most value that you can now that you have settled into your membership . . ? Then volunteering with us is a win-win. Passion and positivity are the only qualifications that you need to make a great volunteer.

You help a cause that you care about – protecting South Africa’s plant life. BotSoc branch conservation projects are developed in line with SA’s botanical conservation targets and prioritise identified Important Plant Areas.

BotSoc has more than 11 000 members from all walks of life and backgrounds. The potential power of these members is absolutely breathtaking – so let’s awaken the sleeping giant!


Left: Prof Linda Basson helps primary-school learners identify frog fish during a ‘frog evening’ at the Free State National Botanical Garden that combined catching frog fish with a talk on frogs and their ecological importance.


In the process of this, you enjoy the scientifically proved benefits of volunteering:

  • Build existing or new skills
  • Use your skills creatively
  • Increase your happiness
  • Share your enthusiasm with like-minded people
  • Boost your mind and body

Polish your skill set

Volunteering can help you build your career or vocation or take you in a new direction. You have the chance to discover a different environment, different ways of working and new networks to help you decide whether to make a long-term change – or whether to stay a volunteer.

Volunteering can give you useful experience to build your CV and help you try out skills such as teamwork, communication, project planning, task management and organisation in a more tolerant place than some workspaces.

Or you could join one of our courses to develop skills that you can use to create effective input to environmental impact assessments and help protect precious plant areas. The opportunities in SA’s environmental laws for civil society to give constructive input to EIAs are often underused. You can help ensure that the environment gets a fair shake in among the other competing needs.


Above: Steph Potgieter and Johan Najoe look after the BotSoc table during the annual plant sale.


Don’t worry – be happy!

The more people volunteered, the happier they were, a study by London School of Economics researchers found. Those who volunteered monthly were 7% more likely to be very happy and those who volunteered every two to four weeks were 12% more likely to be very happy compared to those who never volunteered. Among those who volunteered weekly, the chances of them being very happy jumped 16%.

“Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults,” noted Debbie Haski-Leventhal of Australia’s Macquarie University in a 2009 study. “Those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not.” She adds that volunteering “has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease”.



Above: Joined by members of the Mountain Club, BotSoc members get ready to climb Thaba Patshwa mountain near Tweespruit, about 100km east of Bloemfontein.

‘Part of my life’

“I started volunteering for four hours a week at the Southern Cape Herbarium 1996 to learn,” says Jenny Potgieter of BotSoc’s Garden Route branch. “I hardly knew what a herbarium was but Yvette van Wyk encouraged me to join and taught me so much.

“I was there for 24 years and I loved it. I learned so much, eventually being able to help others. I developed a deep commitment and it became part of my life.

“At the same time, I joined the Outramps group to learn more about the plants of Garden Route area. Eventually, we became volunteers for CREW. Every week we go out for the day to search for and log rare and endangered plants.

“It has become a way of life and a wonderful way to make a contribution. In the process, I have learned so much and now lead the group. It fills a big gap since losing my husband. Volunteering has enriched my life.”


Take your pick

BotSoc can give you opportunities to explore a world that you want to know more about, learning from professionals and fellow members:

  • Learn about wild indigenous plants while volunteering. Help CREW (Custodians for Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) monitor SA’s urban and wild spaces or hone your ID skills from your armchair by helping out with identification on iNaturalist
  • Help out with special projects from youth horticulture and environmental programmes to plant fairs
  • Become an informed environmental activist, use the BotSoc Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) resources to make a valuable contribution to an EIA process and let your voice be heard for nature in eco-sensitive areas around the country
  • Rally your friends, colleagues and other personal connections to gain more support for plant conservation
  • Give active support to SA’s National Botanical Gardens with hands-on support in the gardens caring for and helping propagate plants.

Or you could simply donate your existing professional skills to help the BotSoc team nationally. Branches could use a regular hour’s worth of financial skills to run the accounts, for instance. Conflict resolution, report or proposal writing and producing newsletters are all skills that branches can put to great use.


Above: Members of the Free State branch committee meet in the potting shed of the FS National Botanical Garden: (from left) Emma Ferreira, Morné Maree, Nondumiso Magija (FS-NBG curator) and Johan Najoe (secretary and treasurer).


Join the action

Each BotSoc branch runs volunteer activities that chime with the needs of local biodiversity, a nearby national botanical garden and members’ interests.

Of course, if you are keen to do an activity that is not listed, you can enlist fellow members’ support and help start a new contribution to conserving and protecting SA’s precious natural plants.



What I’d wish I’d known

When we think about volunteering, many of us worry: “I don’t know enough about plants!” “When would I find the time? My weekends are packed already!” Here Joseph White, now a member of the Bankenveld branch committee, shares with us what he wishes he had known – and how it would have made his path to volunteering easier.

“I remember going into the volunteer space thinking that I don’t have enough time to contribute,” he recalls. “I worried that I was too busy to become a ‘proper’ volunteer.

“But what I have realised this past year is that it is not about trying to commit all your time completely. Every little bit is helpful, essentially.

“That has been my major lesson and I would have liked to have had that perspective more clearly in my mind. It would probably have meant that I would have got involved sooner and more broadly if I had not felt this personal pressure that I would have to throw myself into it completely.

“I wish I had properly understood that any contribution is helpful to volunteer-based organisations.”


Take a look at what BotSoc branches are doing to conserve the SA environment and protect our plants

Free State, Bloemfontein

  • New indigenous garden in central Bloemfontein at the Adelaide Tambo Library: weeding flower beds, feeding established plants, watering, planting, pruning old trees
  • Motsetshe Trail in Free State National Botanical Garden: guiding
  • Annual plant fair at FSNBG: help at BotSoc table
  • Remove invasive alien plants at the FSNBG: join hack team
  • BotSoc events: take care of refreshment table
  • Kei apple jam: help with cooking produce to raise funds
  • Primary-school learner outreach events at Free State National Botanical Gardens: guiding

KZN Coastal, Durban

  • BotSoc Plant Fair: help with plant sales, give gardening advice such as types of plants suitable for specific areas, help with event logistics
  • Durban Botanic Gardens: weeding
  • CREW fieldtrips: help search for and survey threatened plant species populations
  • City Nature Challenge and Great Southern BiobBlitzes: record biodiversity observations via iNaturalist during global bioblitz events

Bankenveld, Johannesburg

  • CREW outings: search for and survey threatened plant species populations
  • Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden: weeding and hacking; guides for educational walks on various subjects, such as butterflies, frogs, birds and trees; help with SANBI activities
  • City Nature Challenge and Great Southern BioBlitz: record biodiversity observations via iNaturalist during global bioblitz events
  • Presenters for series of talks (on Zoom or at WSNBG) about the fascinating and generally unknown or as yet untold stories of SA’s indigenous flora (in planning)
  • Local nature reserves or protected areas: weeding and hacking programmes (in planning)

KZN Inland, Pietermaritzburg

  • Open gardens: promote interest in growing indigenous plants in the KZN Midlands
  • Threatened plant conservation for SANBI project: mentor KZN National Botanical Garden staff in locating and collecting threatened Midland plant species; hold public planting group sessions at KZN-NBG to boost awareness of this plant conservation method for propagating threatened species
  • Fundraising: help collect financial support for KZN-NBG’s plant conservation
  • CREW outings: help search for and survey threatened plant species populations
  • Annual Happy Earth Festival: help with transporting disadvantaged learners; promote environmental awareness and BotSoc
  • EIA commenting: use BotSoc EIA training course to guide informed comments on proposed developments in KZN Midlands sites with high plant biodiversity value (in planning)

Algoa, Gqeberha

  • Adopt-a-Plot: invasive alien plant clearing; garbage collection; information dissemination (via signboards) at remnants of threatened vegetation types
  • CREW outings: help search for and survey threatened plant species populations
  • City Nature Challenge and Great Southern BiobBlitz: record biodiversity observations via iNaturalist during global bioblitz events
  • FoVS spring plant sale: help to support the Friends of Van Stadens (custodians of Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve)
  • NMMU campus garden: help plant out and maintain the garden (in planning).

This article was featured in Veld & Flora in the June 2022 edition.

To read this article and others like it in Veld & Flora, become a BotSoc member today:


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