2018 awards by the Botanical Education Trust

As is the case every year, the demand for grant funding far exceeded the amount available. Only income derived from investments is used, as all donations received are invested for future funding of applicants. Six applications which, in the opinion of the Trustees, would best serve the conservation of our indigenous flora were selected, totaling R115 000. Unfortunately it was not possible to grant the full amount requested to all successful applicants.

Top: Carolina Diller. Above: Martina Treurnicht.

The Trustees wish to thank all our donors, large and small, who have made these grants possible. Whether an immediate contribution or a legacy, all donations permanently benefit our indigenous flora. The favorable exchange rate for donors abroad means that even small contributions translate into valuable amounts in South Africa.

The Trust approved funding towards the publication of A Field Guide to succulent Euphorbias of southern Africa by Rolf and Alma Becker. This is the first book dedicated to the genus Euphorbia in this part of Africa since 1941. Easy to use, with annotated photographs, it will make identification easy, so raising awareness and interest in conserving these succulent plants.

Above: Gerbera aurantiaca (Hilton Daisy)

The current conservation status of the Hilton Daisy, Gerbera aurantiaca, is endangered. Only about twenty populations remain and, because of commercial forestry, these are extremely fragmented and isolated. Carolina Diller of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal received an award to study the population genetics of this beautiful plant. Her work will have implications for conservation of the mist belt grasslands of KwaZulu-Natal.

The Drakensberg Mountains are an important area of floristic diversity. This is also a major catchment area, but only 5% is protected in nature reserves. Glynis Goodman-Cron, of Wits University, aims to help inform management approaches to protect this biodiversity hotspot and maintain its integrity. To this end, her research examines ecological drivers of diversification in the beautiful endemic genus Glumicalyx.

Top: Glynis Goodman-Cron, of Wits University. Above: Glumicalyx nutans

Marie Jordaan received funding for a taxonomic revision of part of the genus Olea. Because taxonomists seldom appear in the limelight of botanical research, they often find it difficult to attract funding. This work provides critical basic information that can be applied to many practical aspects such as conservation status, environmental management and environmental education. Olea from southern Africa was last revised 55 years ago. Marie’s proposal is dramatically different and includes more species, one previously undescribed.

Natasha Visser, of the University of Johannesburg, received the balance of her funding approved in 2017, but subject to a progress report in 2018. She is making excellent progress with her taxonomic study of the southern African grassland species Thesium. Grassland plants are of great importance and Thesium has been identified as a high priority for taxonomic revision.

Above: Stephen Cousins. Photo: Tessa Oliver.

In 2014, Stephen Cousins received funding from the Trust for his work aimed at restoring the critically endangered Swartland Shale Renosterveld in the Western Cape. An extremely talented young botanist, he had already produced publications describing his progress when he was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident this year. Martina Treurnicht, of Stellenbosch University, received an award in honour of Steven to continue this work.

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Professor Neil Crouch awarded the Botanical Society’s Marloth Medal

Written by the KZN Coastal Branch, Photos: Di Higginson Keath

Professor Neil Crouch was presented with the Marloth Medal in a light-hearted ceremony at the Durban Botanic Gardens on Monday, 22 October.  The presentation was convened to coincide with the visit to Durban of new national Council Chair of the Botanical Society, Mrs Marinda Nel.

The Marloth Medal is awarded to any person, professional or amateur botanist, who has produced significant literature of a popular nature to stimulate public interest in the indigenous flora of southern Africa.  The medal commemorates Dr Rudolph Marloth, pharmacist, analytical chemist and botanist who published much on the flora, his most famous contribution being the Flora of South Africa, which appeared in six magnificently illustrated volumes between 1913 and 1932.

Top: Mrs Marinda Nel, Chairman of Council, congratulates Prof. Neil Crouch on his award. Above: Professor Neil Crouch wearing the Marloth Medal

Prof. Crouch was nominated by Professors Gideon Smith and A. E. (Braam) van Wyk , for his work across a broad section of our flora, including ferns, succulents and medicinal plants.  Prof. Crouch has written or co-written ten books and over 330 papers, chapters or other publications. His research work has been matched by a great interest in field work. He has served as the Scientific Editor of PlantLife and is a Trustee of the Botanical Education Trust.

Prof Crouch graduated from UKZN : Pietermaritzburg in 1989 with a B.Sc. in Botany and Biochemistry. This was followed by a Ph.D in plant physiology also from UKZN. Whilst busy with his lab-based research, he explored his interest in field-based natural history, and wrote a field guide to the ferns of Ferncliffe Nature Reserve. Following his PhD, the National Biodiversity Institute (now the South African National Biodiversity Institute) employed him as their ethnobotanist. He continues to be based at KZN Herbarium on the Berea, now as Deputy-Director, Biodiversity Economy.  At the same time, he is an Honorary Professor in the School of Chemistry and Physics at UKZN.

Top & Above: The Marloth Medal awarded to Neil Crouch.

Mrs Nel commended Neil on how his botanical skills had translated into books for the benefit of all.

On accepting the medal Prof. Crouch thanked BotSoc for considering him even though he was not a BotSoc member. He said that it was through interactions with other people that he had become excited about plants and had wanted to share the information with others. People like Geoff Nichols, Ian Garland and Elsa Pooley had passed on their passion to him. He had enjoyed collaborating with all his many co-authors, such as Gideon Smith, and John and Sandie Burrows. He acknowledged all those he had worked with and thanked them, remarking how even a small interaction can have a big impact.  He hoped to see others ‘picking up the torch’ in the future and speaking and writing on behalf of local plants and their environment.

Neil’s wife, Tanza, an entomologist and ceramic artist, and father-in-law, Dr. Richard Clark, were there to support him. Geoff Nichols and Richard Boon among other friends and associates created much merriment with their witty comments.

Growing the Future: An Introduction to the Botanical Education Trust

Written by Charles and Julia Botha

Why is the Botanical Education Trust so important?

South Africa is home to one of the richest floras on earth. It has more than 10% of the world’s flowering plant species and is the only country that has a whole plant kingdom that falls entirely within its borders. The Cape Floral Kingdom has more than 20% of the African continent’s plant species, despite covering less than 0.5% of its total land area. The Cape Peninsula alone has more plant species than the whole of the United Kingdom. However, many South African plant species are under threat. Populations of threatened species are lost underneath housing development from a rapidly growing human population. They are outcompeted by alien invasive plants or collected en mass for the medicinal plant trade.

What is the Botanical Education Trust?

The Botanical Education Trust was founded to educate people about the importance of South Africa’s diverse flora and biodiversity in view of these challenges. The organisation operates under the auspices of the Botanical Society of South Africa. It is fully registered as a Trust and is audited annually. In addition, it has been approved as a PBO (Public Benefit Organisation) and has been granted exemption from donations tax and estate duty by SARS. This includes a Section 18A exemption certificate which permits any donor to treat donations to the Trust as a tax deductible expense.

Neil Gerber, a past president of the Society of Chartered Accountants, is the Honorary Treasurer of the Trust and Professor Julia Botha is the Secretary. Some of the country’s leading botanists serve as Trustees on the Botanical Education Trust’s Board, namely Professor Braam Van Wyk, Professor of Plant Science at the University of Pretoria, Dr Neil Crouch from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Dr Hugh Glen.  Zaitoon Rabaney, Executive Director of the Botanical Society of South Africa and horticulturalist Chris Dalzell also serve as Trustees. The Trust is chaired by Charles Botha, a semi-retired businessman.

What does it do?

The objectives of the Botanical Education Trust are:

  1. To conserve and promote the indigenous flora of South Africa.
  2. To advance education and research in the field of our indigenous flora.
  3. To fund literature pertaining to indigenous flora and factors that influence it.

What projects has the Trust funded?  

Last year the Botanical Education Trust celebrated its 10th Anniversary. Since it was founded the Trust has awarded grants to the value of more than R865,000. One of the projects supported was an environmental education programme based at the National Botanical Gardens which encouraged learners to make informed environmental decisions and educated them about conservation. The Botanical Education Trust has also funded taxonomic studies, threatened and data deficient species research and research on biological control of alien invasive plants. In addition, funding has also been contributed towards the publication of important botanical literature.

In 2017 the Trust received 22 applications, five of which were selected for funding, receiving a total of R113,000. Sharon Louw (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) received an award to study the effects of fire on the Common Sugarbush Protea caffra. Findings from this research will be used to inform best management practice for the Protea Savanna system, which will ultimately benefit the flora as a whole. Dr Francis Siebert, of North-West University, received funding for her project on different forb species in semi-arid savanna. In this ecosystem forbs represent a vital food source for a variety of different insects including butterflies.

The Mistbelt Forests of Kwa-Zulu Natal have long been exploited and only an estimated six patches of primary forest are now left.  Those which remain are now also highly threatened by alien invasive plants. Dr Jolene Fisher from the University of the Witwatersrand has received funding to monitor the extent, diversity and quality of these forests. Dr Marina Koekemoer from SANBI works to help people identify South Africa’s fascinating and diverse flora. A grant has been made towards her publication of the Complete Plant Families of southern Africa. Natasha Visser, from the University of Johannesburg, also received funding to carry out a taxonomic study of the southern African genus Thesium. This genus has been identified as a high priority for taxonomic revision. This work is of vital importance in advancing knowledge about South Africa’s unique and highly biodiverse flora.

The Botanical Education Trust would like to thank all donors who have made these grants possible. We thank you for your support.

How can you help?

Donations, no matter how small, will serve conservation in perpetuity because only interest on capital is used and all donations are capitalised. Even if contributions are not immediate, legacies left behind will be to the permanent benefit of our indigenous flora.

Payments can be made to:

Botanical Society of South Africa – Durban Coastal Branch

Nedbank, Durban Branch Code – 135226

Account Number – 1352029901

Please state clearly on all donations that it is for the Botanical Education Trust and fax the deposit slip to 086 651 8969 or email to botsoc-kzn@mweb.co.za. Payments can also be made via the donate button on the KZN Coastal Branch website.

BotSoc launches new awards

Written by Zoë Poulsen

Do you know someone who deserves recognition for their contribution to the conservation, promotion and appreciation of South Africa’s indigenous flora? The call is now open for nomination for BotSoc’s annual honours and awards. The Honours and Awards committee are excited to announce the introduction of four new awards:

The BotSoc Youth Award

Awarded to any young person or groups of youth (under the age of 25) who has/have made a significant contribution, excluding publications, to the conservation and promotion of the indigenous flora of Southern Africa.

The Stella Petersen Education Award

Above: Stella Petersen reminisces with Xola Mkefe

Awarded to any person who has made a significant contribution to the promotion of environmental education which focuses on the flora of Southern Africa. The award is made in honour of Dr Stella Petersen. Her interest in the rich biodiversity of the Cape Floristic Region started at an early age, while exploring the floral treasures of the Cape Flats around Macassar during family holidays.

Following on from achieving multiple degrees at the University of Cape Town (UCT), she went on to achieve a further MSc at the University of Syracuse, USA in science and education. She worked for many years as a tutor in the Zoology Department at UCT and worked alongside Edith Stephens. Upon her retirement she worked as a volunteer garden guide at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town and later joined their Goldfields Education Centre where she continued her work. She was a visionary educator, tireless campaigner for equal rights and an inspiration to countless students.

The Dale Parker Conservation Award

Above: Elandsberg Nature Reserve: Jewel in the crown of biodiversity conservation in the Swartland

The Dale Parker Conservation Award is to be awarded to any private landowner or farmer who, as custodian, undertakes outstanding biodiversity conservation practice on their land.

The award is made in honour of the late Dale Parker, a visionary farmer, businessman and conservationist. He saw himself as a farmer, but his foremost love was for the wild places he encountered as well as their wildlife and flora.

While growing up he spent considerable time on the family farm Elandberg near Wellington. He later took over the property in the 1960s and started to introduce antelope such as eland and springbok to the veld.  In 1971 he took the pioneering step of having the wild parts of the farm declared a provincial nature reserve. Today Elandberg Farms is one of the major producers of wheat, wool, meat and game in the Swartland. Meanwhile Elandsberg Nature Reserve conserves an ecologically important stretch of land recognised for its incalculable botanical value. It contains the largest remaining tracts of two highly threatened vegetation types and their associated animal species, including the endangered geometric tortoise. The reserve is home to more than 820 plant species, five of which are endemic to the reserve.

Dale Parker was also a past chairman of the very active and successful Flora Conservation Committee, and did much to ensure its success. He was a committed supporter of BotSoc SA and is appropriately acknowledged in the naming of this award.

The President’s Award

Awarded to branches of BotSoc, both garden and non-garden based. The award will have a monetary value awarded to the branch. This is awarded at the discretion of the Council to the branch whose activities are most in line with the BotSoc’s mission and objectives.

Nominations for awards open on the 1st March 2018 and must be submitted by the closing date of 12:00 noon on 15th May 2018. Application forms for nominations are available from the BotSoc Head Office or can be downloaded from the website http://bit.ly/2BplGA1.