Do you realise just how special our backyard really is? Facts about The Cape Floral Kingdom

Written by Catherine Clulow

All too often we take for granted what’s right under our noses and for that very reason today we share some facts to remind, inform and/or highlight just how special our backyard really is. The facts shared in today’s blog are taken from SANBI Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, a wonder to visit to enjoy our amazing biodiversity and natural heritage.

So you may ask what’s a floral kingdom? Floral kingdoms are the largest natural units that can be determined for flowering plants. Regions that share the same combination of plant families form part of the same floral kingdom. There are six floral kingdoms of the world (Holarctic; Neotropical; Pelaeotropical; Australian; Cape; and Antarctic).

So what’s so special about the Cape Floral Kingdom? Here are 6 ‘wow factors’ for you:

  • It is the smallest of all the floral kingdoms
  • It is the only floral kingdom to fall completely inside the borders of a single country
  • It occupies about 90 000 square kilometres- that’s only 0.04% of the surface area of the Earth
  • It contains nearly 9000 species of flowering plants- that’s about 3% of Earth’s species
  • Two out of three species in the Cape Floral Kingdom are endemic, meaning they occur nowhere else on Earth. This is the highest level of endemism in the world!
  • The Cape Floral Kingdom is a World Heritage Site

The Cape’s vegetation is termed Fynbos. Yes many of our readers know what this is, but we share a bit more about Fynbos for those who may not, and you may too learn a thing or two you didn’t know or may not remember.

What’s so fine about Fynbos?

  • Fynbos is the vegetation that is found growing naturally on the mountains and coastal plains of the south-western tip of South Africa, unique to the area.
  • The name comes from the Dutch ‘fijn’ and ‘bosch’ meaning fine bush, referring to the very small leaves and flowers of many of the species.
  • Fynbos makes up 80% of the Cape Floristic Region/ Cape Floral Kingdom
  • Fynbos is characterised by the presence of four main plant groups: restios, proteas, heaths and geophytes, as well as seven plant families that only occur in fynbos
  • It’s amazingly diverse, and exceptionally rich in species, and occupies a relatively tiny area of land
  • Over 7000 species occur in 41 000 km2, and 80% of them occur nowhere else on Earth.
  • The Cape Peninsula alone has 2 600 species- that’s more than the total number of species in the British Isles- crammed into an area smaller than London
  • To emphasise the diversity try these comparatives, let’s blow your mind with some numbers: Comparing species diversity with other heathland communities in Australia and California, and with the rest of South Africa:

Cape Floristic Region/Cape Floral Kingdom- 94 species per 100 km2

Australia- 14 species per 100 km2

California- 12 species per 100 km2

The rest of SA- 8 species per 100 km2

Marvel in the Cape Floristic splendour, how can you not? Appreciate and safe guard our amazing biodiversity. We live in a truly special place and need to remember that and remind each other from time to time.

King Protea (Catherine Browne, Botanical Society of SA)
©Catherine Clulow

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) is an NGO focusing on biodiversity conservation and awareness and environmental education and for over 103 years has been working with passionate partners and persons to conserve the natural heritage and flora of southern Africa. BotSoc’s mission is “ To win the hearts, minds, and material support of individuals and organisations, wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa, for the benefit and sharing by all”. Find out more about BotSoc here and consider joining the BotSoc family.

Go out and learn about, appreciate and enjoy our Floral Kingdom and be proud of it!

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Go Green: make a choice, make a change

Written by Catherine Clulow

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”                 – Robert Swan-

In the ever changing world we live in and with the imminent risks our planet faces in light of climate change, we all need to do what we can to make a difference.

Here the Botanical Society of South Africa shares day to day ideas of what each of us can do to make a difference in going green, making the planet a better place, one day at a time. We don’t propose you must do each and every suggestion but you’ll see that many are easy and with a little reminder and thinking we can all contribute to greening our lifestyles.

32 Tips to get you thinking and being green in and around your home and garden

In the home:

  1. Switch off the water when you’re brushing your teeth
  2. Place a bucket in the sink and shower to collect water for watering your plants
  3. Set your washing machine to 30˚
  4. Drip-dry your clothes
  5. Put a brick in your cistern to save on water and use less water each flush
  6. Leave your geyser alone; concentrate your power savings elsewhere.
  7. Insulate your house properly
  8. Put on an extra layer of clothing before turning up the heat
  9. Shower rather than bath
  10. Clean and defrost your freezer regularly
  11. Use white vinegar, bicarb and water as a general cleaner
  12. Recycle & reuse
  13. Reuse your shopping bags- keep them in the boot of your car or handbag
  14. Go paperless but back up your data
  15. Understand what you’re doing with carbon offsets
  16. Walk more
  17. Carpool
  18. Once in a while have dinner in the dark, an unplugged evening

In the garden:

  1. Ensure you have permeable paving
  2. Start a compost heap and/or an earthworm farm
  3. Install drip irrigation instead of sprays
  4. Plant indigenous plants that are adapted to the natural water regime of your area
  5. Collect grey water for use on your garden
  6. Be bird-friendly but don’t overfeed your birds
  7. Minimise the amount of lawn in your garden
  8. Get to know your garden
  9. Grow your own veggies and herbs
  10. Embrace bees
  11. Install a water butt to catch roof water
  12. Companion plant
  13. Plant a tree on special occasions
  14. Expose your kids to nature and have dirty kids- and fewer allergies

So there you have a few ideas, there are so many ways in which we can live greener lives. Share your ideas with us in the comments below.

With the end of year around the corner, why not think of green gift ideas. Rather than bunches of cut flowers, how about a pot plant? How about planting a tree together as a family to remember the holidays and good times together? How about purchasing a BotSoc membership for your loved ones? Find out all about BotSoc membership here, your membership subscription contributes towards the operations of our NGO which strives to support biodiversity conservation and environmental awareness and education. Members enjoy great benefits for a full year. You can sign up and/or gift membership online here or visit the BotSoc Head Office or bookshops at Kirstenbosch.

May we together strive to live greener lives and each take a stand to safeguard our precious planet, we’ve only got one. Reuse, reduce, recycle! Go green: make a choice, make a change.

Plants never give up: the tale of Scadoxus multiflorus growing in London

Written by Gloria Gross and Catherine Clulow

We received this contribution from a loyal Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) member, currently residing and gardening in London, England. Gloria regularly shares with the BotSoc Head Office the joys and trials of her passion for gardening. Her passion and fascination in plants is exciting to share, so here you have a short tale of Scadoxus multiflorus growing in London.

Who’s Gloria?

So by means of introduction firstly let us share a little about Gloria. Gloria is a designer and illustrator by profession, South African born and now retired and living and loving gardening in London. She left SA in her early years after completing her studies and traveled and worked around the world. Post 1994 she started returning to her birthland, SA and around about the same time joined the Botanical Society of SA.

Gloria remarks: Each year I turn up at Kirstenbosch for my ‘fix’! Standing in that wonderful January sunshine and heat and think – if only…As I reconnected with my roots I started to realise how much I loved native SA plants. The affinity I have with them. I feel a need to have them around me, in my garden. I also love the challenge of struggling with them in this climate especially to over-winter but with few exceptions – I have had some terrific results.

And here we share one example of one of her terrific success stories growing plants far from their homes.

Scadoxus multiflorus, commonly known as the blood flower, Catherine wheel, poison root or Fireball lily, is an indigenous South African plant, and member of the Amaryllidaceae family. With its strikingly showy floral display and evergreen foliage, this beauty is a real treat when its single flower blooms for the season. These plants albeit their beauty are poisinous.

Here’s Gloria’s experience growing this plant far from its home.

In April this year I bought a couple of Scadoxus multiflorus bulbs to replace one that had outgrown itself over the years. Being 7,000 miles away from their natural home they are obliged to live in my studio at the top of the house in London.

They’re not lonely up there because they have the company of several tropical favourites of mine – a Guava tree grown in a pot to make it possible. I planted the seed about six years ago and it’s been fruiting over the past few years. This year the fruits – all three of
them, were amazing in size and flavour. There are several Vygies, and a beautiful Hibiscus Rosa ninensis cooperii. In the winter – they have more company although my Proteas which are in pots seem to prefer remaining on the patio with bubble wrapped pots and fleece hoods at any sign of frost.

I first encountered Scadoxus some years ago in Camphor Avenue at Kirstenbosch and was blown away by it’s stunning colour and showiness. I was well tutored by Alice Notten whose knowledge is daunting and to whom I am really grateful.

The very healthy, large bulbs arrived in a box which I duly opened and left safe for planting. Now fast forward to September. These bulbs which I had unintentionally neglected had remained in their box growing strongly but very white as the box they were in shut out virtually all the light. It was also September and I had bought these to plant in April/May, being Spring here, and my guilt was mounting. There were three choices – plant them, hold to April or fling them. The third was discounted pretty quickly because the bulbs were so spectacular so I decided to plant there and then in pots to live as their predecessors had, in my studio as there’s no alternative in this climate.

That was 10th September. It’s been something of a manic race to complete their cycle. They absolutely had to flower no matter what. I find it incredible how they shot off as if nothing had happened, one far ahead of the other. The light was getting very low and autumn was beginning to close in. The first shoots turned green in a matter of days and on September 24th, the first flower was in open bud and fully opened on the 27th while the second plant was still very much in tight bud form.

 

But, not to be left behind in this survival race, and incredible by the 29th there was a beautiful flower waiting to open. On the 3rd October this second one opened whilst it’s companion was starting to droop.

8th October the first lot of crisp green leaves were stretching skywards and the competition arrived on the 14th. Now, on the 25th October just a month from starting this, the leaves are glossy and beautiful with two, now, withering flowers.

It feels like I have been watching a sped up movie. I wonder how long they will take to die down and rest before the next show and whether that will be back to the correct timing of April/May 2017? Isn’t it extraordinary how plants never give up.

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Isn’t that inspiring? It really is true, plants never give up and we ought to  take a lesson from them.

Happy gardening to all our readers! Until next time…

For more information:

Please visit PlantZAfrica here.

The plan in a nutshell: SA’s National Strategy for Plant Conservation

Written by Catherine Clulow

As signatory to the Convention of Biological Diversity, South Africa is dedicated to the application of a national strategy to safeguard plants that is aligned with the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

SA is in a prime position to make a significant impact to global plant conservation as we have 6% of the world’s plant diversity and strong botanical and conservation capacity.

In this blog we wish to spread awareness about the strategy and its importance, as well as the roles BotSoc is involved in. A brief overview of the plan in a nutshell.

Over the past two years, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) have worked together with SA botanists and conservationists to develop this strategy. The South African National Strategy for Plant Conservation (NSPC) includes 16 outcome-orientated targets, which if well-implemented will lead to the improved conservation of plants.

Due to South Africa being megadiverse and facing a unique context, the global targets were altered for the development of SA’s strategy. The targets were altered in such a way that they are attainable and relevant to and in the SA context. The targets range from documenting conservation status of plants, to conservation in situ ,and ex situ, and various other aspects in between. There are targets tackling the threat of alien vegetation and a range of targets addressing the sustainable use of plants. The strategy ends with targets focusing on its implementation and the increased awareness and education about plants and their need of conservation. Each target is nationally relevant and aligned with activities identified by the South African National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). To read the full strategy, it is available here.

South Africa’s Strategy for Plant Conservation has 5 objectives that outline the 16 Targets to be implemented by 2020.

These objectives are:
1. Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognised
2. Plant diversity is urgently and effectively conserved
3. Plant diversity is used in a sustainable and equitable manner
4. Education and awareness about plant diversity, its role in sustainable livelihoods and importance to all life on earth is promoted
5. The capacity and public engagement necessary to implement the strategy have been developed.

nspc

BotSoc has been directly involved in assisting in the editing of this strategy and are committed to the implementation of specific targets. Namely targets 14, 15 and 16.

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Target 14: The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, education and public awareness programmes.

Target outcomes for 2020

– Plant conservation included in the life science curriculum across SA

– Plant conservation awareness expanded by exposure to botanical gardens and by involving the public in citizen science projects

– Plant conservation promoted in relevant media

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Target 15: The number of trained people working with appropriate facilities sufficient according to national needs, to achieve the targets of this strategy.

Target outcomes for 2020

– Conservation courses offered in SA’s universities aligned with skills needed in the field of plant conservation

-Work place mentorship opportunities available in plant conservation programmes

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Target 16: Institutions, networks and partnerships for plant conservation established and strengthened at national, regional and international levels to achieve the targets of this strategy.

Target outcomes for 2020

-A SA network for plant conservation effectively implementing and updating the NSPC

-Working groups for each target ensuring that specified outputs are being achieved

Through BotSoc’s activities and partnerships we aim to contribute to the implementation of these targets and successfully achieve the outcomes laid out in the strategy. In doing so, we will be playing our vital and attainable role, and contributing to the greater scheme of safeguarding SA’s rich and unique flora heritage, as laid out in the NSPC.

Over the next few years the stories of the NSPC implementation and of outcome-oriented activities will be shared. Each of us can play a role in highlighting the importance of conservation to others and sharing what we have learnt about the strategy and outcome story news as it becomes available.

Numerous environmental entities, bodies and individuals are involved in driving the activities of this living and dynamic document, and the successful implementation of the strategy outcomes. Through collaborative efforts we can and will make a difference to safeguard biodiversity for all.

Sneak peek at the 10 SANBI National Botanical Gardens

Written by Catherine Clulow

So I bet you’ve heard of Kirstenbosch right? And perhaps the garden(s) in your region, but many folk are not aware that there are in fact 10 National Botanical Gardens managed by BotSoc’s partner the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Each garden gem offers something uniquely special and each and every one is well worth a visit. What’s more, as a BotSoc member, you are afforded the benefit of free entrance into all 10 gardens (with presentation of your valid BotSoc membership card), so what’s stopping you – head on out and explore! Each garden offers endless opportunities of learning, enjoying and engaging in nature.

Here’s a sneak peek at the 10 SANBI National Botanical Gardens (NBGs) – find out where they are and what they offer and pop in to explore and enjoy them when next you travel that way.

1. Free State NBG– Bloemfontein

On the fringes of Bloemfontein this garden extends between picturesque dolerite koppies. An experience not to be missed.

2. Hantam NBG– Nieuwoudtville

Take your time to enjoy the array of flora and fauna that call Hantam National Botanical Garden home. The first national botanical garden in the northern Cape.

3. Harold Porter NBG – Betty’s Bay

Situated in the heart of the coastal fynbos where the flora is at its richest, extending from mountain slopes to the coastal dunes of the Overstrand district, this garden is renowned for their waterfalls and amber pools. The inspiration behind the gold medal-winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year.

4. Karoo Desert NBG– Worcester

An exceptional gem, this garden displays a wide variety of South Africa’s desert and semi-desert plants at the foot of the Hex River Mountain range. The garden showcases a large succulent collection and is most popular to visit when the annuals/vygies are in bloom during spring.

5. Kirstenbosch NBG– Cape Town

This world-renowned garden of magnificence on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain is more than just a garden – it is a tourism hotspot, place of recreation, conservation and learning. This garden is also home to the Botanical Society of South Africa head office and award-winning Centenary ‘Boomslang’ Canopy walkway.

6. KwaZulu-Natal NBG– Pietermaritzburg

This peaceful garden focuses on the conservation of plants from the eastern regions of South Africa and  rare and endangered species from elsewhere.

7. Kwelera NBG– North of East London

The youngest of the SANBI national botanical gardens. Wild and raw beauty awaits and magic is found in the dune forests and surrounds.

Unfortunately this garden is not yet open to the public

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
©SANBI

8. Lowveld NBG– Nelspruit

This garden is characterised by two rivers crossing, the Crocodile and Nels Rivers. Remarkable waterfalls and an African rainforest containing captivating vegetation from the coastal belt as well as Limpopo Province, are only a glimpse of what’s to be seen and enjoyed.

9. Pretoria NBG– Brummeria

This urban oasis offers a pristine getaway situated in the eastern suburbs of South Africa’s administrative capital. A 35 metre high quartzite outcrop divides the garden into two sections offering visitors two worlds to explore. This garden is also home the SANBI head office.

10. Walter Sisulu NBG– Roodepoort

Voted the best place to get back to nature in Gauteng for the past nine years – this garden is an escape in the middle of the city. A breath-taking waterfall, outdoor gym, fascinating Black Eagle project, children’s area, restaurant, and birding opportunities make this a must visit.

And what’s more, it’s National Garden Day  on the 9th of October 2016, celebrate gardens with us!

 

 

Roots of Sustainability Garden- come see us at the CT Flower Show (*Giveaway up for grabs*)

Hello readers. You may or may not have heard yet that The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) will be participating in the unmissable Cape Town Flower Show at the Castle of Good Hope 27-30 October 2016.

show-garden

BotSoc have collaborated with Metro, and brought partners Reliance on board to bring visitors an awesome show garden at the Cape Town Flower Show this year- the Roots of Sustainability Garden– where we’ll be showcasing easy and effective ways to harvest rainwater and irrigate your garden, as well as tips for being water-wise and choosing indigenous plant options. There will be a variety of inspiring ideas on creating your perfect water-wise garden and making indigenous plant choices. View your roof in a whole different light and make your home sustainable.

Water is a scarce and dwindling resource, and South Africa is a dry country with unpredictable rainfall and an ever increasing demand for it. As the demand for this precious resource grows, so will its price along with legislation discouraging excessive use. It is, therefore, important to garden for the future.

Water-wise gardens cut down water usage but are still beautiful and, as there are so many indigenous options to choose from, water-wise gardening should be the norm.

Metro Roof|Solar|Electric, Reliance and BotSoc all fully support this notion and so have collaborated to participate in this year’s CT Flower Show to demonstrate to the general public tips and ideas on how to garden water-wise and sustainably. Visit our Roots of Sustainability Garden at the show (Garden 11), where we hope to educate and inspire. Be sure to pick up our brochure on 7 principles of water-wise gardening too.

We will highlight energy harvesting methods and water-wise gardening tips.

You can also find out all about BotSoc membership and add to your collection of natural heritage books at the BotSoc Bookshop. They will be located in the exhibitors’ hall and are sure to have an array of spectacular choices available, including authors from some of the CT Flower Show workshops and presentations. A great spot to get a gift and/or to spoil yourself with a book, BotSoc membership and/or a goodie or two.

Please remember to bring your plastic as the event is cashless, using WAP only. For all visitor information, please read here.

*WIN WIN WIN*

Stand the chance to WIN 2 TICKETS to the Cape Town Flower Show! Trust us you don’t want to miss out on this event. There’s something for everyone!

How to enter:

Simply comment below what the Metro/BotSoc/Reliance Roots of Sustainability Garden will be highlighting to visitors.

Terms and Conditions:

  • This prize may not be won by any staff member of BotSoc or their direct family members or any associated companies to the Cape Town Flower Show.
  • The prize is redeemable at the complimentary ticket counter at the Castle of Good Hope and valid for one day’s entrance only.
  • Giveaway entries close Wednesday 19th October 2016.
  • Please note that you can only enter once and the winner will be chosen by random.org. We will contact you via email and your name and contact will be shared with the CT Flower Show organising team to ensure you’re on the guest list, and they’ll get in touch with you regarding redeeming your tickets.

Best of luck! And if you don’t win, no need for FOMO, you can get your tickets here or at the door.

Follow, like and engage with the BotSoc family on Facebook and Twitter. Find out more about and engage with the lovely folk from Reliance on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Engage with the sustainable Metro team on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you and see you there. It’d be great if you could share this blog with others so they to can stand a chance to win.

 

 

 

Celebrate our natural heritage! Another successful treasure hunt with CREW: The rediscovery of Polhillia ignota

Written by: Ismail Ebrahim (CREW) & Catherine Clulow (BotSoc)

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.

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Polhillia ignota © Ismail Ebrahim

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!