Our Blog: Plants and other Stories


​Celebrate succulents at the Calitzdorp Vetplantfees this September


SEP 13, 2021 | WRITTEN BY ZOË CHAPMAN POULSEN, Photographs by Rupert Koopman and Buck Hemenway.


Above: Dorotheanthus clavatus, Endangered. Photo by Rupert Koopman


The Little Karoo town of Calizdorp transforms itself into a succulent showcase celebrating our indigenous plants at the Vetplantfees on 18-19 September.

Calitzdorp is located at the heart of the Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot, home to the highest succulent plant diversity on earth. The festival is hosted by the Calitzdorp Succulent Society.

The Calitzdorp Vetplantfees encourages attendees to know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa’s phenomenal diversity of indigenous succulent plants. However, the festival is more than a celebration; it’s also a coming together of succulent experts to deal with some of the challenges that threaten succulents, in particular, the threat of poaching.

The Botanical Society is using this platform to facilitate an action dialogue of local and national stakeholders such as the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), growers, WWF-SA and provincial agencies to seek solutions to some of these challenges.


Above: Hillside full of Freesia speciosa. Photo by Buck Hemenway.


The Afrikaans word for succulents ‘vetplant’ literally means ‘fat plant’ when translated, in reference to the thickness of the leaves of these plants as they have adapted to store water, enabling them to survive in water-scarce conditions. But only around 30% of the original extent of Succulent Karoo remains in a pristine state. The remaining sections are threatened by agriculture, including overgrazing by livestock, mining and illegal poaching.

Visitors to the festival can look forward to a variety of different events throughout the weekend, including workshops, talks, guided walks and plant sales from specialist succulent plant growers. Entrance to the festival is free, with small charges to participate in some activities.

Activities will cater to all ages, including fun activities for children. Kids can plant their own succulent mini garden at the Kids Table for R10.


Come and experience BotSoc at the Vetplantfees

As part of our outreach and actively wanting to know, grow, protect and enjoy, BotSoc National Office will have a presence at the festival. We’re excited to get to know the succulent community and meet up with our members and members of the public.

Look out for our stand, where we will be available to chat to you, with the capability to also sign up or renew memberships. Additionally, on Monday we will be hosting a diverse group of interested and invested parties around the National Response Strategy for Illegal Trade in Succulents. We aim to bring key stakeholders together to understand the current situation and see what possibilities there are for learning and how best to have BotSoc as part of the solution to this threat.

Above: Boophone disticha. Photo by Buck Hemenway.


With so much on offer to do, why not make a weekend of it?

The main hub of the festival will be in downtown Calitzdorp, south of the R62 on Van Riebeek Street across from the Caltex garage.

Throughout the festival, you can join a guided walk to visit nearby Jakkalskop, where many different succulent plants can be seen in bloom.

In line with Covid protocols, walk participants will be limited to eight people per guided walk. The fee to join each walk is R150, with attendees able to book their time slot ahead via the festival website.

During the weekend there will also be a series of expert talks held at the Calitzdorp NG Church which are free to attend on a first come first served basis.

Above: Enthusiasts in field admiring succulents outside Calitzdorp. Photo by Buck Hemenway.


The new monograph ‘Lithops in habitat and in cultivation’ by Roy A Earl and Janice E Round will be launched with an expert talk by Dr. Roy A Earl. This beautifully illustrated publication will be the most comprehensive work published to date on the genus.

Dr Ernst Van Jaarsveld will be giving a talk on biodiversity exploration in Namibia and Angola. In April 2021, Ernst travelled alongside seven associated scientists from Namibia and Angola by helicopter to explore the biodiversity of the 3 remote mountain peaks of Middleberg (Namibia), Serra Techamalinde and Serra Cafema (Angola). Join the talk to hear more about their extraordinary adventures.


Above: Aloe longistyla. Photo by Buck Hemenway.


Furthermore, Dr Anso Le Roux will be talking about the impacts of plant poaching on succulent biodiversity, and environmental educator Louis Jordaan will be talking on ‘Nature – A book anybody can read who will stop long enough’.

On Saturday evening from 18h00 onwards, there will be a dinner and talk, with Adam Harrower, Senior Horticulturalist and Succulent Collection Curator at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens talking about the miniature world of the Knersvlakte in Namaqualand. Seats for the dinner and talk can be booked online on the festival website. (Sold out)


Above: A planting workshop at a previous Vetplantfees (before the onset of the Covid pandemic). Photo by Buck Hemenway.


Would you like to learn more about how to grow succulents in your own garden or cultivate them in containers?


The Vetplantfees is the perfect place to learn. A selection of four practical workshops is on offer to festival goers, including succulent plant propagation, container gardening with succulents and succulent bonsai for beginners.

To put your new-found skills into practice, thousands of succulent plants from specialist growers around the country will be on sale. At 15h30 on Saturday 19 September the festival’s rare plant sale will be held, auctioning a selection of rare succulent plants, artwork and more.

With so much botanical excitement coming up, we hope you will make the journey to Calitzdorp to join the fun. More details can be found on the Vetplantfees website below.


Above: Circandra serrata, Critically Endangered. Photo by Rupert Koopman.


Vetplantfees 2021 at a Glance:

Times & Dates: Saturday 18 September (9h00-18h00)
& Sunday 19 September (9h00-17h00).

More information and booking for specific festival events:


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