Aloe Aloe…what have we here? Learn about sun-loving aloes in Limpopo

Written by Sandra Lennox and Catherine Clulow

We bring you another great contribution from plant-loving folk in Limpopo. With water restrictions underway in SA and there being a stronger need to encourage water-wise gardening and promote indigenous plants, today we share with readers about Aloes. These unique and beautiful plants are sun-loving and hardy and water-wise.

1. Looking for the sun-kissed plant that is Aloe lettyae, Asphodelaceae

This is the grass aloe with spots on both upper and lower leaf surfaces. The plant population dynamics are being studied from a conservation point of view with funding from the Botanical Education Trust.

Aloe lettyae endemic to the critically endangered Woodbush Granite Grassland. Leaves are spotted on both the upper (adaxial) and lower (abaxial) surface. © Pat Lennox

This rare aloe, grows amongst the spring flowers of the Woodbush Granite Grassland and may be seen while on one of the hour long wild-flower walks during the annual mid-September Spring Festival, led by the Friends of Haenertsburg Grasslands (FRoHG). The rare aloe plants, not in flower, were photographed one cloudy and cool day, a good day for photographs, although without rain on the trail while accompanied by eco-enthusiasts from nearby towns, of different generations, and the dog Pluto, who watched closely or rested while waiting on the trail move along to the next flowering plant. The land had been burnt, several plants were in flower, belying the fact that there had been little rain. This shows that underground storage organs such as bulbs and tubers are an important part of the survival of these grassland species, hence clearing land for example for firebreaks irreparably destroys the integrity of the flora. The grasslands have established over a long period of time. Coincidentally, the CITES convention had started in Gauteng, to discuss the preservation of endangered species such as elephant, pangolin and naturally the rhino. While scientists and policy makers talked, there are those who walked, appreciating the priceless value of the grassland wildflowers. Rare and endangered plants with medicinal value have been listed for the Woodbush Granite Grasslands (Dzerefos et al. 2016). Aloe lettyae is a summer-flowering aloe.

2. Aloe greatheadii var. greatheadii

This is the spotted aloe with spots on upper leaf surfaces. Commonly occurring, it is an important plant for bees as the pollen has a high protein and lipid nutritional content. You can read more about attracting bees into your garden here.

Aloe greatheadii var greatheadii in flower on a granite ridge near Houtbosdorp and Moketsi, Limpopo. The leaves are spotted on the upper surfaces. © Pat Lennox

The spotted aloe, or kgopane (Setswana) flowers in winter (June-July) when it is considered to be spectacular. In habit, the plants are stemless, occurring singularly or up to 15 plants, up to 1.7m high. The dark, shiny green leaves present with spotted, elongated markings arranged in bands on the upper (adaxial) surface, while the leaves are light green and unspotted underneath (abaxial surface). The one to three inflorescences are branched. Each raceme presents 30-40 pale pink to bright red flowers. The pollinators are bees and birds. Wind distributes the seeds. The habitat is in grasslands and bushveld biomes, in open woodland and in overgrazed areas, at altitude from 1000 to 1660m. The distribution is the Free State and northern KwaZulu-Natal. Aloe greatheadii is named after Dr J.B. Greathead who collected the type specimen with Dr S. Schönland. The bitter sap is medicinal, used as a treatment for burns, sores and wounds. The young leaves are chopped and boiled to be used as an antiseptic.

In the garden, sow seed in a mix of sand, compost and river sand. Cover with pebbles. Keep in a dry and warm environment. Avoid drying out the growth mixture. Plants are frost and fire tolerant and are used as soil binders on mine dumps.

3. Aloe marlothii A. Berger

This is the very large, single stemmed aloe seen in large stands along the roadside of Polokwane to Tzaneen, interestingly this is unusual as explained further along.

Aloe marlothii in the Mamabolo Bushveld near Moketsi, Limpopo. © Pat Lennox

The large, single stemmed Aloe marlothii occurs in bushveld vegetation on rocky ridges from sea level to approximately 1 600m, at warm temperatures with infrequent frost. Commonly known as the mountain aloe, bergalwyn (Afrikaans), inhlaba or umhlaba (Zulu), Aloe marlothii is distributed from the north-western, northern and north-eastern part of southern Africa and is rewarding to cultivate. Aloe (Greek) refers to the product of dried juice from the leaves, Alloeh (Sanskrit) and Allal (Hebrew).  The species is attributed to the botanist H.W. Rudolf Marloth  These aloes are associated with the African iron age archaeological sites on the Polokwane (formerly  Pietersberg) plateau where the distribution is an anomaly in terms of climate and ecology. The dense stands consist of 80 to 100 year old plants. It is thought that plants were introduced as seeds near the Ndebele villages as the spiny leaves were used to prepare hides for dresses, dried leaf ash may be added to snuff, the flower nectar is edible and leaf decoctions may be used as a vermifuge. The succulent Aloe marlothii plants are suited to drought conditions, as water is stored in stems and leaves, though kudu browse the leaves during dry conditions, thorns protect the rough leaf edges from browsing, dried leaf bases defend the stems and the plant height enables escape from browsers while surviving drought.

4. Aloe arborescens Mill.

This is the most commonly cultivated of southern African aloes. The aloe leaf gel heals sunburn as explained further along.

Aloe arborescens © Callidendron nursery

Commonly known as the kranzaloe (Engl.), kranzalwyn (Afr.), ikalene (Xhosa), inhabane or umlabana (Zulu) it occurs on cliffs in mountainous regions, rocky ranges and outcrops and in dense bush. It occurs in summer rainfall regions and has the widest distribution of the southern African aloes, from the Cape to the eastern coast, KZN and northern South Africa, from sea level to higher altitudes. The cliff dwelling form was formerly known as Aloe mirabilis. Aloe arborescens tolerates drought and it is moderately frost resistant. This is one of the most widely cultivated aloes in the world. It is one of the first aloes collected for cultivation from South Africa. The inflorescences are unbranched and flowers emerge during winter (May to July). These are commonly orange, rarely pure yellow or a combination of orange and yellow. The nectar is edible to birds, for example sunbirds and also bees. Aloe arborescens is recommended for herb gardens. A leaf decoction may be used as an antiseptic and for indigestion, it has been used in stock and poultry farming. The leaf powder is considered to have protective properties against storms. Aloe arborescens are useful barrier plants for example as a hedge. In rural areas, remnants indicate fenced enclosures or cattle kraals.

In conclusion

Aloe lettyae highlights the conservation value of the grasslands. Aloe greatheadii is present as a spotted, grass aloe. Aloe marlothii has been introduced for its economic value. Aloe arborescence is widely cultivated and an early subject for gardens having been collected from the wild. All sun-loving aloes are water-wise and flower while introducing colour.


This article was written with assistance from the Friends of Haenertsburg Grasslands, FRoHG and the Tzaneen Eco-club with inspiration from Gariep nursery, Pretoria which specializes in the cultivation of Aloe. The photos were taken by Pat Lennox.


Aloe greatheadii Schönland var. greatheadii (Internet:; accessed October 2016)

Bredenkamp, G..J. and Van Vuuren, D.R.J. 1987. Note on the occurrence and distribution of Aloe marlothii Berger on the Polokwane (formerly Pietersberg) Plateau. South African Journal of Science 83: 498-550.

Dzerefos, C., Witkowski, E., Kremer-Köhne, S. 2016. Aiming for the biodiversity target with the social welfare arrow: medicinal and other useful plants for a critically endangered grassland ecosystem in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology. DOI 10.1080/13504509.2016.1A.4963

Emms, Paul. 2007. Aloe marlothii (Internet:; accessed October 2016)

Hankey, A. and Notten, A. 2004. Aloe arborescens Mill (Internet:; accessed October 2016).

Human, H and Nicolson, S.W. 2006. Nutritional content of fresh, bee collected and stored pollen of Aloe greatheadii var davyana (Asphodelaceae). Phytochemistry 67 (14) 1486-1492.

Letty, C. 1962. Wildflowers of the Transvaal. Struik, Cape Town.

Onderstaal, J. 1984. Transvaal , Lowveld and Escarpment. South African Wildflower Guide 4. Botanical Society of South Africa , Cape Town

Phiri, P.S.M. 2005. Preliminary checklist of plants of Botswana. Sabonet (southern African botanical diversity network) report 32: 107.

Pooley, Elsa. 2005. A field guide to Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. The Flora Conservation Trust, Durban.

Reynolds, G.W. 1982. The Aloes of South Africa. Balkema, Cape Town: 481.

Setshogo, M.P. 2005. Preliminary checklist of plants of Botswana. Sabonet, 37: 115.

Smith, G.F., Figueiredo, E., Klopper, R.R. and Crouch, N.R. 2012. Summer flowering species of maculate Aloe. L. (Asphodelaceae, Alloideae). The Aloe zebrine complex from South Africa. Bradleya 30: 155-166.

The Conservation (2016) Conservation convention (23-09-2016)

The Mail & Guardian (2016) The CITES conservation convention (24th to 30th September, 2016)

Van Staden, L. and Kremer-Köhne, S. 2015. Aloe lettyae Reynolds. National assesment: Red list of southern African plants, 2015/1. (Internet:; accessed October 2016)

Van Wyk, B. and Smith, G. 2003. Guide to the Aloes of South Africa edn 2. Briza Publications, Pretoria


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.


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.


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.

A bit about sun loving plants: the wonders found on one little hillside in Limpopo

Written by Sandra Lennox & Catherine Clulow

This is a small selection of plants in flower on a granite ridge in the Limpopo province during spring, some of which could suit water-wise gardens. This particular ridge seems to be a frost free area, as the cabbage tree, Cussonia spicata and the misty plume bush, Tetradenia riparia are sensitive to frost.

  1. A bit about the sun-kissed beauty, that is Bushman’s tea (Athrixia phylicoides), Asteraceae

This little bush, made more valuable by pruning to increase the shrubby density, can be used to make a refreshing health tea (by brewing its leaves and twigs), which is used as a stimulant in traditional herbal medicine in Venda, Limpopo Province. The wood is useful and the branches may be bound to form brooms for the patio or garden.

  1. The cabbage tree (Cussonia spicata), Araliaceae

In the garden the cabbage tree is drought resistant, having succulent roots. Although evergreen it is sensitive to frost. The tree may be grown in large pots, which also restricts the ultimate size.

In nature the cabbage tree is found on forest margins, in wooded grassland and on rocky outcrops.  Being hardy it occurs from the coast to mountains. It is evergreen but frost tender.  It occurs as an occasional tree approximately 4m tall. The crushed leaves have a faint carrot-like aroma. Cabbage trees have been found growing on a gentle west-facing slope in unburnt wooded grassland on granite and in full sun, where there is a tree with a thick trunk. These trees are in the savanna but in the forest nearby – northern mistbelt forest – there is a particularly large Cussonia spicata. The cabbage tree in the Woodbush Forest near Haenertsburg has grown to champion size having a trunk over 7.6 m (25 ft) in circumference, in addition to having an extraordinary height and crown spread. This particular tree grows in a hot, wet climate in the kloof and is recorded as one of the remarkable trees recorded by Thomas Packenham author, dendrologist/tree-fundi and historian, while “on safari in southern Africa”.

The subterranean, succulent roots provide moisture. In folk medicine the bark, leaves and roots have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Beware, as the roots are poisonous, although traditionally having been used medicinally against malaria, digestive and reproductive system ailments. The hollow, split stems have been used as trays, the wood is light and can be hollowed out, particularly for fodder and possibly for plant containers.

  1. The Cape beech (Rapanea melanophloeos), Myrsinaceae

This is an evergreen tree which grows up to 20m tall, though the small tree in flower and fruit can grow in a cottage garden as the roots are not aggressive. In nature, the Cape Beech occurs on forest margins, in bush clumps and often in damp places. It is a pioneer tree which occurs from the coast to mountains.

The wood is hard, pinkish brown, moderately heavy and suitable for carving, particularly for violins and other musical instruments. The Cape Beech has edible fruit. In folk medicine, bark is used as an expectorant and an emetic, with anodyne and tonic properties, the caveat being that these require development by the pharmaceutical industry, so probably should not be tested at home without supervision. The bark of the Cape Beech is used in folk medicine for protection.

The Cape Beech grows easily from seed and seedlings are transplanted readily. The trees are moderately drought resistant and can withstand a fair degree of frost. Trees grow in shade, full sun and tolerate onshore coastal winds. The fruit attracts birds such as barbets, guinea fowl, louries and pigeons.

  1. The African protea, white sugarbush (Protea gauguedii), Proteaceae

This is a spreading multi-stemmed shrub or small, gnarled tree. In nature the white sugarbush or African protea occurs in grassland and bushveld, in rocky places. The flower-head (inflorescence) is usually solitary and up to 110mm in diameter.

  1. Broad leaved boekenhout (Faurea rochetiana subspecies speciosa), Proteaceae

This is a small to medium, deciduous tree, with a crooked trunk, grey crown and reddish autumn colours which occurs in high grassland and woodland. There is a broad leaved boekenhout tree, ± 3 m tall with gnarled trunk, inflorescences ascending, growing on a gentle W-facing slope in unburnt wooded grassland on granite, in full sun in the Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld, near Houtbosdorp, Limpopo.

In folk medicine the roots of the broad leaved boekenhout are utilised. Faurea rochetiana (A.Rich.) Chiov. ex Pic.Serm. was named after C.L.X. Rochet d’Hericourt, a French chemist who explored Ethiopia (1839-1845).

  1. The straw everlasting, sewejaartijie (Helichrysum krausii), Asteraceae

This is an aromatic shrublet, growing up to 1m tall, which occurs in coastal grassland and in open woodland. For example, the straw everlasting is a common herb, ± 40 cm tall with yellow flowers, growing on a rocky ridge in unburnt wooded grassland on granite, in full sun in the Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld.  The straw everlasting is visited by honey-bees. It is easy to grow, may be grown from seed and needs full sun. The Helichrysum krausii was named after Christian Krauss, (1812-90), German scientist and collector, in South Africa (1839-40).

  1. Phymaspermum athanasioides (Asteraceae)

This is a common herb ± 40 cm tall with yellow flowers, growing on a rocky ridge in unburnt wooded grassland on granite, in full sun in the Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld.

  1. Misty plume bush or ginger bush, Tetradenia riparia, (Lamiaceae)

This is a robust, slightly succulent shrub, or occasionally small tree 1-3m high, up to 5m which occurs on wooded hillsides, in frost free areas. It occurs near rocky outcrops or at margins of evergreen forest, often near water. The flowers emerge, July to September, before leaves. The plants are dioecious, with male flower spikes 2-8cm long and with denser, female flower spikes 1-2.5cm long. The plants are lavender scented, used in folk medicine for coughs, sore throats, stomach aches and malaria. These hardy plants are easily grown from cuttings.

In conclusion, on this particular hillside, amongst the plants rapidly collected by a small group of plant enthusiasts, were a crow-berry (Searsia pentheri, Anacardiaceae) and a climbing numnum (Carissa edulis, Apocynaceae), several cabbage trees, broom and cluster leaved asparagus (Asparagus virgatus and A. laricinus, Asparagaceae) and an Aloe sp. (Asphodelaceae). There were at least seven species of Asteraceae including silver oak, straw everlasting, small leaved fluff bush and small-head camphor bush. Trees included the common spike thorn and the koko tree (Gymnasporia buxifolia and Maytenus undata, Celastraceae), blue guarri trees (Euclea crispa, Ebenaceae), Cape Beech (Rapanea melanophloeos, Myrsinaceae) and African wild olive (Olea europaea, ssp africana, Oleaceae). Useful plants included the African protea or white sugar bush, (Protea gaguedi, Proteaceae), Anthospermum welwitschii, (Rubiaceae), the lemon bush or fever tea (Lippia javanica, Verbenaceae) and the ginger bush (Tetradenia riparia, Lamaiaceae).

It seems that, just on this small hillside, there are trees and shrubs which may be used for fuel, there are those with edible fruit or from which tea may be made, there are plants with medicinal properties and there is wood which may be used for carvings or which were used historically for structures such as wagons. In terms of environment, this ridge probably would not have experienced frost and the vegetation is bushveld, savanna although there is mistbelt forest within walking distance. The diversity is surely worthy of appreciation and hence conservation and that is only the plants, there are also birds, lizards and more.

Biodiversity in our country is diverse and fascinating! We hope you learnt something from and enjoyed the sharings of this blog post from the BotSoc Limpopo branch. Find out more about the Botanical Society of South Africa here.


This blog has been written with gratitude for the field notes and plant identifications by Barbara Turpin, Buffelskloof Nature reserve, Lydenburg and Bronwyn Egan, Curator, Larry leach Herbarium, University of Limpopo. Most photographs are courtesy of Pat Lennox, though the photographs of the Cape Beech, Rapanea melanophloeos are by Barbara Turpin.


Boon, R. 2010. Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa. Durban: Natal Flora Publications Trust

Champion Tree Project (2002 onwards). Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).  (Internet:; accessed September 2016).

Coates-Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, 3rd edn. Cape Town: Struik.

Packenham, T. 2007. In search of remarkable trees. On safari in southern Africa. Jonathan Ball, Johannesburg.

Pooley, E. 2005. A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Vandecasteele, P., Godard, P. 2006. In celebration of Fynbos, gardening, healing, cooking, decorating. Stuik, Cape Town.

Van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N.  2000. People’s Plants. A Guide to useful Plants of Southern Africa. Pretoria: Briza Publications, p 102, 103, 312.

Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 2013. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Nature.

Venter, F. & Venter, J-A. 2002. Making the most of indigenous trees. Briza, Pretoria.



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


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.


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.


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 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.

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!