The Southern Cape Herbarium (SCH)
The Southern Cape Herbarium is the only herbarium between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth offering a plant identification service focussing on the local flora. The collection hosts well over 12 000 specimens, with the focus area lying between the Western Cape border in the East, the Duiwehoks River in the West, and encompassing the region south of the Swartberg Mountain Range to the coast.
The focus area comprises four of the nine Biomes in South Africa (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Albany Thicket and Forest), a large proportion of which receives all-year-round rainfall. The Southern Cape Herbarium therefore covers a region of notably rich floral diversity. Vegetation types include the endangered Garden Route Granite Fynbos and Mossel Bay Shale Renosterveld. The Swartberg, Outeniqua, Kamannassie and eastern end of the Langeberg Moutain ranges, together with the Lakes area also provide habitats for many endemic species. The aim of the herbarium is to have at least one specimen of every plant present in the area of focus.
As with all herbaria the specimens are pressed, dried and mounted, with a quick guide forming the first go-to for plant identification. The main herbarium has many specimens representing plants in their different forms and habitat gradients, all having been data-based. From this data further research and data mining can take place.
The herbarium is maintained by an expert curator, Priscilla Burgoyne, and volunteers who help with the mounting, filing, and updating of species names, as well as general upkeep. A comprehensive botanical library is attached to the herbarium, providing ample sources for research in the area. The Herbarium aims to better facilitate the understanding of local plant diversity coupled to the distributions of each taxon. The rapid rate of urban development in the area means that a herbarium specimen is often the only surviving record of the historical location of a taxon. The SCH has been visited by local and international researchers who also contribute to our data by positively identifying specimens of plants in their specialty groups.
Other SCH efforts include participation in annual flower shows. While many of the flower shows in the Cape Floristic Region have a tendency to deplete the rarer species, our herbarium is ecologically responsible and if there are too few specimens of a species available, will refuse to show them. Environmental education together with species identification for environmental impact assessments and rescue are also functions of the SCH.
The herbarium is open to the public by appointment.
Moriarty Environmental Centre
49 Caledon Street
George 6529, South Africa
Telephone: 27 44 8741558
Fax: 088 44874 1558