Eastern Cape to Get National Botanical Garden

Opened to the public on July 1, 1913, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens will be celebrating its centenary this year. A function was held in Cape Town in January 2013 to officially release a new publication entitled Kirstenbosch: The Most Beautiful Garden in Africa, written by respected ecologist Professor Brian Huntley and richly illustrated with full colour photographs. With more than 750,000 people visiting Kirstenbosch each year, the book will no doubt take pride of place in many a personal library as a memento of these spectacular gardens.

At the function it was also revealed that two new national botanical gardens are in the pipeline, bringing the total number of these popular attractions in South Africa to eleven. The two new gardens will be established in Limpopo and near East London in the Eastern Cape. Currently under the guardianship of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA), the Kwelera Nature Reserve has been chosen as the site for the Kwelera National Botanical Garden, which will be co-managed by ECPTA and SANBI.

It is anticipated that the new Kwelera NBG will play a significant role in community education on the importance of biodiversity, while at the same time boosting tourism in the area, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality. The new facility will no doubt benefit by being one of SANBI’s well-established countrywide network of national botanical gardens (NBG), which includes Kirstenbosch NBG, Harold Porter NBG, Karoo Desert NBG, Hantam NBG, Free State NBG, KwaZulu-Natal NBG, Lowveld NBG and Pretoria NBG.

Botanical gardens are essential to maintaining indigenous biodiversity in the various regions of South Africa, while educating the public on the role they play in this regard. Working along with professional biologists and interest groups, more than 440 bird species have been recorded in the countrywide national botanical gardens, and checklists of butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians, freshwater fish, mammals, reptiles, scorpions, spiders and molluscs continue to be added to. This wealth of valuable information is made available through SANBI’s website.