Our Blog: Plants and other Stories


​Inspiring a community of young plant lovers 


JUN 9, 2021 | Written by Zoë Chapman Poulsen. Photographs by RUPERT KOOPMAN, TINA VLOK, Deon Potgieter AND Jo-ANNE KING.




BotSoc may be more than 100 years old. Still, we’re as relevant to young people today as when we started, given our focus on knowing, growing, protecting and enjoying South Africa’s indigenous plants.

According to BotSoc’s General Manager, Antonia de Barros, there has never been a more important time for young people to get involved in this BotSoc mission. “South Africa’s extraordinary flora is under threat. It needs to be protected now, so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.

Above: The BotSoc Kogelberg branch, supported by the national BotSoc team, awarded four BotSoc youth memberships to members of the Strandlopers Youth Club during an event at the Harold Porter Botanical Garden recently. Photo: Tina Vlok


That’s why BotSoc has made 500 free youth memberships available through our branches for new BotSoc members, welcoming these young people to BotSoc, as a concerted drive to include a community of young plant lovers.

Antonia says, “We recognise that our youth are a driving force to protect our plant life. They are energetic, technologically savvy and focused on the problem-solving skills we need to tackle today’s global biodiversity challenges.”

By bringing new youth members into the BotSoc fold, it allows youth and more seasoned members to connect with each other. “This connection is critical to the social exchange needed to enable transfer of knowledge, skills and perspective to each other,” says Antonia.


Above: CREW Groen Sebenza intern Mzukisi Beja describes what makes the Thicket biome special to a group of young visitors. Photo: Rupert Koopman


Youth membership giveaway

In fact, the youth membership giveaway fits in with BotSoc’s transformation strategy, to nurture the passion and knowledge of young people about the importance of nature, and the conservation of our flora.

We’re excited about this youth drive. Not only are these memberships a wonderful opportunity for young people to learn about indigenous plants and connect with a caring and knowledgeable BotSoc community. These new youth members will also help revitalise the Society with their passion, energy and enthusiasm.


Above: Here BotSoc FreeState Branch Chairperson, Deon Potgieter, awards the students with free BotSoc youth-student memberships. From the left, the students are: Emma Ferreira, who received the prize for the best Honours student in Botany. Carlo Visser, who received the prize as the best 3rd year Botany student. Jo Cobbold, who received the prize as the best 2nd year Botany student. On on the far right is Ricus Nel. Ricus is starting his MSc research this year with support from the BotSoc Conservation Programme. Photo: Deon Potgieter.

The rollout of the youth memberships has already started. For example:

  • The BotSoc Kogelberg branch awarded four BotSoc youth memberships to members of the Strandlopers Youth Group from Kleinmond.
  • The BotSoc Free State branch awarded BotSoc youth memberships as prizes to the top three Honours students in Botany at the University of the Free State.
  • And BotSoc is contributing to jobs created for 43 youths in national botanical gardens across South Africa this year (who will also receive free BotSoc youth memberships). In this joint project with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the organisation responsible for the maintenance of national botanical gardens, the young people will help with the upkeep of the gardens. They will also learn more about plant conservation through propagation, plant identification and more in collaboration with local BotSoc branches and the associated garden curators.

Above: Rebecca Ryen, a Nature Conservation intern at the Garden Route Botanical Garden, photographs Disa bracteata while on a hike with the local CREW chapter. Photo: Jo-Anne King


Young conservationists

She says, “This youth drive builds on the foundations we already have in place to upskill young conservationists.” For many years BotSoc has supported SANBI’s Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme in partnership with the Mapula Trust. This has been geared towards plant conservation work and the employment of young scientists, like Kaveesha Naicker, the Summer Rainfall Region Co-ordinator.

Antonia concludes, “We look forward to continuing this youth drive, encouraging young people to #Know, #Grow, #Protect and #Enjoy South Africa’s indigenous plants.”


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