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.

Advertisements

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.