Our Work

The Southern Cape Herbarium

The Southern Cape Herbarium has been collecting and surveying the region’s indigenous vegetation for the past 17 years and is valued for its plant identification services. A herbarium is a scientific collection of preserved plant specimens which grow are indigenous to a specific geographical area. As such the Herbarium fulfils a valuable research and resource function in the conservation of the Southern Cape’s flora.

The rich flora of the Southern Cape is one of the region’s most precious assets. The Southern Cape has amazingly varied habitats for plants. Habitats include the limestone areas of Gouritz and Still Bay, the coastal karoo of Mossel Bay, the wet Tsitsikamma and Knysna afro-montane forests, dry coastal forests and scrub, coastal and mountain fynbos, renosterbos and thicket of the Little Karoo, succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, the mountain ranges of Langeberg, Outeniqua, Tsitsikamma, Langkloof, Kamannassie, Rooiberg, Gamka, Anysberg, Great Swartberg and Small Swartberg, many major river valleys and estuaries and the only natural Lakes area in Southern Africa.

The Herbarium has produced comprehensive species lists, data-bases, over 10 000 mounted plant specimens. Digital images can be accessed for plant identification purposes. The Herbarium has also played an important role in environmental education and hosted demonstrations to schools and students at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (www. nmmu.ac.za) as to  the functioning of a herbarium, its uses and importance and the collection and pressing of specimens, etc. – at the moment due to lack of paid staff, this service is available only by special arrangement.

Herbaria world-wide can facilitate planning, research and land-use decision making. Environmental and other scientists make use of herbaria data to track changes in climate and human impact. Herbaria provide a better understanding of the variability of plant forms and the natural distribution of plants and are essential for the study of plant taxonomy (the practice and science of classification) and the stabilizing of nomenclature (the system of principles, procedures and terms related to naming). Herbaria also preserve a historical record of change in vegetation over time. In such cases, specimens preserved in a herbarium represent the only record of a plant’s original distribution. The Southern Cape herbarium is the only herbarium for this very large and diverse region. Yvette Van Wijk is at present the honorary Herbarium Curator.

The Southern Cape Herbarium aims to curate and build up the herbarium collection, and establish facilities to be made available for research and education, to the broadest possible spectrum of the community.

House and catalogue the Herbarium collections in accordance with the norms of Herbaria worldwide.

By developing awareness of the flora of the region, and by identifying the importance of the flora in the context of community and environmental health, to enable communities to gain a better understanding of the value, to them, of the regional flora.

Help to instil a better conservation ethic in the region to the benefit of the community and the environment as a whole.

Generate funds and access donations and sponsorships, in order to cover running costs, build up a Botanical Library, and acquire other essential equipment.