Greening the future: notes on a successful partnership between BotSoc & CPUT

Written by Joseph Kioko and Catherine Clulow

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) signed a memorandum of agreement in 2014. Headed into the third year of this three year contract, the success stories are encouraging and the partnership will be continued for another three year period. The purpose of this partnership was a pilot study for the BotSoc to support a tertiary educational institution and particularly nature conservation students, the ‘greenies’ of the future.

Students taking the National Diploma in Nature Conservation at CPUT undergo highly valuable hands-on training, thanks to funding from BotSoc. The training was facilitated by a highly knowledgeable team led by the City of Cape Town and held at the Zeekoevlei camp of Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET).

The one-week training camp is part of the curriculum of CPUT’s Nature Conservation Diploma, and is designed to integrate what the students have learnt in lectures and practicals with applied skills needed for work. By their nature, these skills can best be taught in situ, in a conservation setting and by professionals working in the conservation sector. Skills taught are many and varied, including: setting up and manning night observation points in a Nature Reserve, using dart guns for baboon management, operation of chain-saws and bush-cutters, the use of Sherman traps for small animal surveys, fixed-point photography for vegetation surveys, the use of field guides for the identification of flora and fauna, park maintenance, park management, alien clearing, GPS mapping, and the use of biodiversity databases, among other technical skills.

Image supplied by CPUT

Students also learnt and practiced ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork, leadership and communication, by taking turns to act as supervisors or team members in specific tasks. This was combined with workshops on time management and reserve management, also given by expert practicing conservationists from the City of Cape Town.

Although this camp has been run by CPUT for a number of years, the camp in 2015 represented a new beginning and was different from all previous camps. For the first time, the students did not have to pay for the camp from their own pockets, the 2015 and 2016 camps were fully funded by BotSoc, including transport, food and training expenses. Therefore for the first time students who did not have the means could fully participate. Previously, those students who could not afford the camp were disadvantaged even further by missing the training. Some students could afford only the transport costs but had no funds for sufficient nourishment and water during the training camp. The feedback from students highlighted that the provision of food saved time that would have been lost when all students had to prepare their own meals, and so there was more time for conservation activities. The provision of meals also provided a good opportunity for students from all backgrounds to socialise, learn from each other, and sow the seeds for fruitful collaboration as professionals. Therefore the full sponsorship of the camp by BotSoc represents a key aspect of enabling the success of students who would otherwise have been marginalised, and is a tangible contribution towards the inclusion of young people from diverse backgrounds into the conservation profession.

Image supplied by CPUT

Students have expressed their extreme appreciation of the training received, they were full of praise for the facilitators, and singled out experts and field rangers from the City of Cape Town as well as the CTEET staff and the quality of nourishment provided.

Image supplied by CPUT

According to Prof. Kioko, the success of the field training camp is the result of a well-functioning collaboration with organisations such as the City of Cape Town, CTEET, and BotSoc, and he is very grateful to those organisations. He added that it is BotSoc that provided the ‘glue’ for the collaboration that delivered the successful 2015 and 2016 camps by providing the funding. The collaboration between BotSoc and CPUT is making a real difference for conservation.

Another activity supported through collaborations is that the first and second year students visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens annually. BotSoc facilitates entry and information guides to assist learning through another great partnership with SANBI. You can read more about the BotSoc- SANBI partnership here. This year, the students attended an outing to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the Compton Herbarium, where they were shown and taught about specimen preservation and research with Christopher Cupido at the Compton Herbarium. Following this they enjoyed using the gardens as their outdoor classroom for the day. Welcomed by BotSoc Executive Assistant, Catherine Clulow and told about the BotSoc/ SANBI partnership, students were then led by SANBI’s Julia September on an in depth tour of the gardens to highlight conservation in situ and ex situ. The group were treated to behind the scenes visits to areas of conservation management and research within the gardens and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

CPUT nature conservation students visit Kirstenbosch 2016. © Catherine Clulow

BotSoc provides CPUT with resources used in broadening student’s knowledge and interest in biodiversity, and Veld & Flora magazines are used for discussion topics and passion sharing.

Students return the ‘favour’ so to speak, in promoting the Society during their WIL internships, when they give presentations about BotSoc to their host institutions, thereby spreading the word about the Society.

It is inspiring to see the determination and spirit of the next generation and we wish all who are influenced by this partnership, to be inspired and develop ever- growing passion to remain interested and working in the environmental sector, greening the future.

We thank the BotSoc members who so generously donate funds for this project, as you read, this is money well spent! What a great story to share, please do.

Until next time…



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.

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.


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.


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


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


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.

The power of collaboration: #greeningcecilia

Written by Catherine Clulow

We wanted to share this inspiring story to encourage action and involvement in making a difference, because each and every one of us can.

Earlier this year, a BotSoc member, Paul Cartmel contacted The Botanical Society of South Africa with an exciting idea. Here’s the overview of his story: he decided the traffic and commute to work was not all that pleasant and took up cycling to work when feasible. Somewhere along the line he had a thought to track his travel and put aside R1/km to give back to the environment, another individual sponsored him as well. The long and the short of it, this small initiative landed Paul with a few thousand rands which he then offered to donate to the BotSoc to be directed at planting trees in the Cecilia Forest area, an area Paul and friends and family particularly enjoy frequenting.

Paul Cartmel, BotSoc member: “ With global population growth being an exponential problem, we need exponential solutions. Raising funds for this initiative as a Capetonian was a no-brainer, as a nature lover it’s great to give back and we hope to inspire others to contribute to the solutions too. It’s exciting to be active, to get a feel for and be involved in the tree planting and I look forward to showing my children these trees one day.”

And it’s that simple, that’s how it all started. One keen member, one individual with an idea and passion and the initiative spiraled from there. BotSoc engaged with Table Mountain National Park, who manage the area, and planning began. Further funds were donated to the cause and partners and volunteers came on board to join in.

Reliance Compost donated compost and some trees. Funds were used to purchase over 600 indigenous trees, mainly from the Kirstenbosch production nursery, but others were received from the Reliance nursery as well as another local nursery.

Great people, partnerships and passion made it all possible and on Wednesday 22 June 2016 over 60 individuals from different organisations and walks of life came together and worked side by side to plant over 600 indigenous trees in the Cecilia Forest area of the Table Mountain National Park.

Anthony Hitchcock, Nursery Manager and horticulturist at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: “Great to be working with SANParks and BotSoc to restore the natural vegetation on the slopes of Table Mountain.”

Staff members from SANParks; BotSoc; SANBI Kirstenbosch;  Reliance Compost;  New Media Labs; together with volunteers from Miss Earth South Africa; friends and family members and even some hikers who stumbled upon the event, worked together planting trees for the future. Dirty hands, smiling faces, warmed hearts were all evident in that valley and that’s the power of collaboration.

Restoring the area to its original vegetation composition of Fynbos and forest and the clearing of alien invasive  trees such as gums and pines are an ongoing focus of the SANParks teams. Initiatives such as this lend a helping hand towards making a difference. I think this was an awesome project, don’t you?

If you’ve been inspired by this story, please share it with  others too and consider following our blog. To find out how you too can become a BotSoc member, click here, we’d love to have you join the BotSoc family.

The BotSoc mission reads below and this initiative speaks directly to fulfilling it.

BotSoc’s mission: 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 of all.

This project also links directly to Targets of the South African National Strategy for Plant Conservation  and we are so proud of working in collaboration with others in support of achieving these goals. Read more about the National Strategy for Plant Conservation here.

We hope this story brightened your day and inspires you too to take action for the environment.

Until next time…


The Meaning of Membership: Part 2- Value in Volunteering

Written by Catherine Browne

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” Helen Keller

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) is made up of 16 branches & interest groups spread across the country, led by passionate volunteer committees, spreading enthusiasm and interest in the environment and promoting environmental education, awareness and conservation in their respective regions. We have a base of volunteers involved in hosting and assisting with BotSoc events and activities. We extend thanks to all of our volunteer members, those involved volunteering in SANBI National Botanical Gardens, with our branches and on the BotSoc Council- the over-arching body of our Society, for their contributions, services and support.

The BotSoc offers our members a range of volunteer opportunities nationally including but not exclusive to –

  • Involvement in citizen science plant monitoring of rare and endangered species with the SANBI Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW). CREW operate across the country and your involvement with them can make meaningful contributions to biodiversity conservation.
CREW active on the Rondenbosch Common, Cape Town ©Catherine Browne
  • Involvement in walks, talks and tours with BotSoc branches & interest groups. There are always interesting topics to share and different regions to explore- find out what BotSoc members in your region and your nearest BotSoc branch/ interest group are up to here.
Aloe Walk Simon 2014-06
Bankenveld Branch Aloe walk © Tony Bloomer
  • Involvement in assisting in SANBI National Botanical Gardens in a range of spheres from assisting in the herbarium; to helping the Millennium Seed Bank; potting; nursery sections support; the BotSoc bookshops; education
JJ Marais- trees in nursery. CBrowne (3)
Volunteer helping with potting trees in the Kirstenbosch Production Nursery ©Catherine Browne
BotSoc education volunteers share about biodiversity. Catherine Browne (2)
BotSoc member volunteer leads school outreach lesson in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden © Catherine Browne

We thank each and every volunteer for your time, service and commitment to our NGO, without you the wheels would not turn as easily and our national impact would not be what it is today.

“Volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless” Unknown

If you are interested in the Botanical Society and wish to also get involved and join our volunteers please sign up as a member and/or contact our Head Office for more information. Read more about BotSoc membership here.

10 Values in Volunteering

  1. No matter how big or small the act, you can make a difference.
  2. Volunteering brings people together. You can meet new people, establish relationships, network, unite with others from diverse backgrounds to work together towards a common goal. You can also learn teamwork.
  3. It encourages civic responsibility and is a win-win for the individual involved, the general public and the Society/ cause.
  4. You can learn, new skills, about humanity and about yourself.
  5. It strengthens your community. Enhance your community by supporting it, beautifying it and improving it.
  6. Volunteering will warm your heart. There’s simply nothing better than doing something you are passionate about and care for, while giving back.
  7. It’s good for you: physically, mentally, and emotionally. What better way to de-stress?
  8. It uses your time meaningfully and saves resources.
  9. You gain experience and skills– making you more of a holistic character. Volunteering is a great way to explore a career path.
  10. Volunteering promotes personal growth and self-esteem. It gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment, as well as helps you understand the needs of others and of the planet. It fosters empathy and appreciation.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill

We hope to have inspired to you get out and about and involved in volunteering. You can gain so much by giving. We’d love you to volunteer with BotSoc and look forward to hopefully hearing from you soon.





Let’s get chatting…

Hello there readers. We, the BotSoc (for those of you who may not be familiar with what that stands for- The Botanical Society of South Africa) are exploring the blogging world and learning as we go along. We hope to bring interesting, fun and informative content on a regular basis to encourage an interest, passion and love for the environment.

Please join us as we journey through a range of topics and regions, sharing on topics ranging from gardening tips, learning about plants, travel ideas, weird and wonderful uses of plants and so much more. We hope to also share experiences from our members to entice others to also join the BotSoc family. Membership to this NGO offers great perks to those concerned (we’ll be sure to share with you all about these in another blog), as well as making a difference- so go on, let’s go green (everyone’s always talking about it) and sign up today.

If any of this tickles your fancy or catches your interest in any way, please visit again, follow us and share with others. You can also find out more about us while we find our feet on this platform by checking out our website on  and/or engaging with us on other platforms- Twitter and Facebook.

Until next time…