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Written by: Catherine Browne

Established in 1913, the Botanical Society of South Africa is dedicated to conserving southern Africa’s unique flora and vegetation. Through a diverse scope of initiatives, as well as the support of generous and loyal members, this NGO has been able to continue its good work for over a century.

Here we share 6 things that the Botanical Society is doing for plant conservation:

1. We’re big into saving prehistoric plants

Cycads are one of the rarest plant groups and a hot topic on national agendas. The Botanical Society is collaborating with, and funding, some of the strategic activities regarding cycad conservation, such as micro dotting of the most threatened species in four provinces. Work in this area includes ongoing awareness and communication about cycad conservation and the threats to this iconic species.

CPUT students in the cycad garden at Kirstenbosch where there's currently a dinosaur exhibit to raise awareness about the plight of the cycad which is at risk of extinction. © Catherine Browne
CPUT students in the cycad garden at Kirstenbosch where there’s currently a dinosaur exhibit to raise awareness about the plight of the cycad, which is at risk of extinction © Catherine Browne

2. We care about diversity hotspots

The Botanical Society is actively involved in stewardship work in the Maputo-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot (MPAH) in KwaZulu-Natal. We are working with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in securing more hectares of the protected areas network dealing with private and communal land owners. The work has been funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the past three years with an extension grant funded by the society itself.


3. We nurture young minds with a passion for nature

The Botanical Society supports environmental education and skills training and is a partner of the Groen Sebenza programme. The programme is involved with the training and up-skilling of matriculants and recent graduates within the environmental sector to better their chances of employment in the sector. Thus growing the future conservationists. Read some of the stories of the Botanical Society hosted Groen Sebenza pioneers and their career development journeys here.

The society is also involved in school outreach initiatives, particularly ‘greening’ schools through garden development collaborations.

A gardening outreach with a local school. © Catherine Browne
A gardening outreach with a local school © Catherine Browne

The society has a memorandum of agreement with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), supporting nature conservation students with resources and fieldwork exposure and skills development. This programme is a three year programme and is in its first year of supporting the nature conservation students, who are granted opportunities to experience real-time field work.

4. We’re serious about rare and endangered gems

The Botanical Society of South Africa has been in partnership with the CREW programme for years and supports its operations through financial means as well as by members volunteering as citizen scientists with CREW nationally. CREW teams go out into the field looking for target species identified for that given area to make observations and monitor them. The data collected is used in updating national records and influences IUCN Red List assessments and decision making.

CREW teams monitor rare and endangered plant species. © Catherine Browne
CREW teams monitor rare and endangered plant species © Catherine Browne

5. We’re keen to get you clued up to get involved

The Botanical Society of South Africa offers and facilitates Understanding Environmental Impact Assessment training with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA). Members of the general public are educated and equipped with skills enabling them to have their voices heard when it comes to developments and environmental changes.

The society’s members are also afforded opportunities to volunteer in the national botanical gardens and citizen science programmes.

Planting indigenous trees with local school. © Catherine Browne
Planting indigenous trees with a local school ©Catherine Browne

6. We’re actively devising plans and strategies for South Africa’s floral future

We have been actively involved in the development and ongoing implementation of the South African National Strategy for Planet Conservation. This strategy outlines 16 targets for plant conservation in our unique country’s context, targets that are aligned with global targets. This is awaiting ministry authorisation signing prior to it being launched, expected early 2016.

Learners decorate biodiversity crowns in Kirstenbosch. © Sally Hey
Learners decorate biodiversity crowns in Kirstenbosch. © Sally Hey

Here are 6 ways that you too can support the society’s plant conservation:

1. Become a society member.

2. Sign up for your MyPlanet card and make the Botanical Society your beneficiary. The Botanical Society of South Africa would like to thank each and every person that has selected us as their beneficiary on their MyPlanet card so that we can continue doing all of the conservation work mentioned above.

MyPlanet card woolworths

3. Make a donation (monetary or in kind) to the Botanical Society by contacting us on or +27 21 797 2090.

4. Volunteer to help the society or get involved in the CREW citizen science programme.

5. Share awareness and educate others about the importance of biodiversity conservation.

6. Keep in touch with the Botanical Society on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

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