SU Botanical Garden gets prestigious conservation award

The Stellenbosch University (SU) Botanical Garden has just been awarded as an Accredited Conservation Practitioner by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).

The SU Botanical Garden, which is the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa, is the only garden in Africa and one of only 11 gardens in the world to receive this prestigious award.

The announcement comes in the wake of the SU Botanical Garden receiving accreditation from the BGCI in June – at the time only the second botanical garden in Africa, the first in South Africa and one of only nine in the world.

The BGCI is internationally known for its efforts in securing plant diversity for the well-being of people and the planet.

The BGCI Conservation Practitioner accreditation recognises excellence in plant conservation policy, practice and education, and accredits botanic gardens carrying out plant conservation activities of local, national or global importance.

“This award represents an additional level of accreditation above the June accreditation and is in specific recognition of the valuable conservation work that the SU Botanical Garden is currently involved with, well developed conservation-focused garden management documentation, as well as collaborations and links in local and international conservation networks that have been established and developed in recent years,” said Peter Kruger, acting curator of the SU Botanical Garden.

“This accreditation confirms the garden’s status as an internationally recognised facility,” said Professor Louise Warnich, dean of the Faculty of Science at SU, while Professor Karen Esler, head of the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, added that it is a clear demonstration of the value of investing appropriately in the garden.

The award is in recognition of the garden’s involvement in projects such as species-specific conservation, for example propagating the critically endangered indigenous paintbrush lily Haemanthus pumilio, and the exotic miniature water lily Nymphaea thermarum, which is extinct in the wild.

The garden is also involved in habitat conservation through cultivating numerous species of endangered renosterveld vegetation, rare succulent Karoo species, and threatened locally endemic wetland species.

Links to other organisations and institutions have been established through staff involvement within conservation networks such as the Fynbos Forum.

Conserving resources such as improving water use efficiency in the garden, along with rainwater harvesting for irrigation, further add to the accredited status.

The accreditation is valid for a period of five years if the garden can develop its contribution to conservation.

Says Mr Kruger: “Considering the position of the garden within the core of the extremely biodiverse Cape Floristic Region as well as having the support of the world-class institution of Stellenbosch University, this goal should be quite possible to achieve and maintain.”

The accreditation should help to improve recognition of the importance of a garden by the authorities,” said Dr Stuart Hall, a horticulturist of the SU Botanical Garden.

“Accreditation will hopefully also improve possibilities to source funding for further developing the garden’s ability to fulfil conservation goals,” he said.

The well-known Eden Project in Cornwall, England, also received the award, as well as gardens in the United States, Netherlands, Mexico, Slovenia and Australia.

Visitors can learn more about the plants in via the downloadable Garden Explorer app on smart phones.