So it’s Heritage month and ‘Proudly South African’ is a slogan we are all familiar with, am I right? A slogan for our rainbow nation and we epitomise it with our multiracial and multicultural society. Living in a beautifully diverse country full of potential and wonders it’s difficult not to boast. SA is recognised for its uniqueness, assortment of ethnic and cultural backgrounds and distinct wildlife and astounding biodiversity.
Be proud of your natural heritage this Heritage month, spread the word about it and take action to protect it!
South Africa supports a vast biodiversity of over 20 456 plant species, making it the only country in the world with its own plant Kingdom.
As South Africans, we are responsible for safeguarding our magnificent ecosystems and species rich environments- for our future generations as well as the rest of the world to enjoy and be bewildered by.
Who are CREW?
So you may or may not have heard of CREW, the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers. They are an awesome programme under the SANBI Threatened Plant Species Programme and a close partner of BotSoc.
In 2003, CREW was born through the initiation of inclusion of a ‘citizen science’ programme to enhance botany research with the then National Botanical Institute (NBI), now known as the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Citizen Science is magic! Using the general public to contribute to research and monitoring is mutually beneficial and exciting. CREW prides itself on the monitoring and evaluation of SA’s threatened plants and with the assistance of citizen scientists has been able to make great strides in the IUCN red listing assessments in terms of the country’s diverse plant families. CREW’s work is important in assisting to determine which endemic plants need to be prioritised for conservation purposes. CREW operates across the country and is continually looking for volunteers to assist them; you need not be a specialist botanist, but have a passion for and interest in plants and a basic level of plant identification skills. Is this something that’s appealing to you? Get in touch! (See contact at the bottom of this blog).
Many of the plants found by CREW have not been seen in years, so finding these is extremely exciting! We have recent news from the CREW team that a thought-to-be-extinct plant has been found! YIPEE!
Another successful treasure hunt with CREW: The rediscovery of Polhillia ignota.
The Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme has rediscovered another long lost species. Polhilla ignota was known from only two collections made in 1909 and 1928 in the Porterville and Saldanha areas respectively. This species was discovered in April 2016 on Marasmodes Day, which is an annual botanical event run by the CREW programme to find populations of species belonging to the Marasmodes genus (a small highly threatened genus of plants in the Asteraceae family). At this time the plants were not in flower and we required flowers to confirm the identification of the species. On the 9th of September CREW staff and a group of volunteers went to collect flowering material of the species. The plants are found on farm Goede Hoop near Eendekuil. The area has been largely transformed but there are a few remnants of natural veld that has not been ploughed because they are too steep or rocky. Only 13 plants were recorded on this site. Specimens collected were taken to the Compton Herbarium and confirmed by Dr Stephen Boatwright. This is an extremely exciting discovery as this species was thought to be extinct at the historical localities. Many searches for this species have been conducted in the Saldanha and Porterville with no success. This new population is a significant range extension for the species and this means that the status will change from Extinct to Critically Endangered. We also found new populations of Diplosoma retroversum and Cheiridopsis rostrata, which are two very rare vygies at the same site.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the CREW funders: SANBI, BotSoc and Mapula Trust for supporting the programme; Dr Stephen Boatwright for confirming the identification; Marius Wheeler from Cape Nature for liaising with the landowner; and CREW volunteers Brian Du Preez, Richard Adcock, Chris Browne, Sediqa Khatieb and Patrick Fraser for helping to find and monitor the population.
Want to get in on the action?
If you are interested in joining CREW, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo (KZN) or Ismail Ebrahim (Western Cape) and they can put you in contact with your nearest CREW group(s). Become a member of the Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) and share your passion of plants and their conservation, read more about BotSoc membership here.
Happy Heritage Month! Proudly South African today and always!