Written by: Zoe Poulsen and Catherine Browne
A very special type of vegetation needs your help – here are six facts you need to know about renosterveld.
1. Renosterveld is one of the world’s most species diverse Mediterranean type shrublands. It is part of South Africa’s Fynbos Biome and the Cape Floristic Region.
2. The name renosterveld is derived from the Afrikaans word ‘renoster’, meaning rhinoceros, which is thought to refer to the Black Rhino which historically occurred in the Western Cape prior to their extermination as a result of hunting by early colonists during the 18th-19th centuries.
3. Renosterveld is known for its extraordinary diversity of geophytes, which during their spring flowering bring a profusion of colour.
4. Today all types of renosterveld are considered to be critically endangered and also are classed as “100% irreplacable”. In the Overberg only 4-6% of the former extent of renosterveld remains, with the majority on private farmland. Therefore it is imperative to work with landowners in order to facilitate effective conservation for the future.
5. To this end Dr Odette Curtis founded the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust (OLCT) with the aim of working with farmers in the region to better conserve what little of this critically endangered vegetation remains. Over the last three years amazing progress has been made. Collaborations have been built with farmers across the Overberg as well as numerous national and international conservation organisations. Odette has been recognised through various awards for her innovative approach to conservation and all that has been achieved by the trust in its short history.
6. The jewel in the crown of the OLCT is the founding and development of Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve and its on-site research and visitor’s centre. The reserve encompasses 500ha of Eastern Ruens shale renosterveld, which is one of the largest fragments in the world. It was purchased after five years of negotiations by the World Wildlife Fund and is now managed by the trust.
Funds were raised through a highly successful crowd funding campaign to turn the previously derelict farmhouse into what is now a cosy home for students undertaking research into renosterveld as well as providing affordable self-catering accommodation for visitors to the reserve and the surrounding area. Since the launch last September numerous visitors from the scientific community and beyond have had the privilege of visiting and staying at the heart of the reserve.
The future for the Renosterveld at Haarwegskloof looks bright but there is still a monumental amount of work to be done to conserve this exquisitely beautiful, species diverse and critically endangered vegetation type across the rest of the region.
The Botanical Society of South Africa supports and partners with the OLCT and is excited to witness the great work they are achieving towards biodiversity conservation. You can help conserve South Africa’s vegetation, to ensure your children and their children, and the generations to come, get to explore and enjoy the biodiversity we have today. To play your part become a member of the Botanical Society of South Africa today. You can also support renosterveld and other biodiversity conservation through the Botanical Society of South Africa by making a donation to support initiatives such as these (100% tax deductible), spreading the word and by getting a MyPlanet card and making the Botanical Society of South Africa your chosen beneficiary.