Photo courtesy Claude Felbert
After years of skilful and persistent campaigning by Prof. H.H.W. Pearson, in May 1913 the Government of the day set aside the Kirstenbosch estate for the establishment of a National Botanical Garden. Pearson’s vision for the new botanical garden was the study and preservation of the country’s indigenous flora, something no other botanical garden had ever done. The land for the Garden was granted on condition that a civil organisation supported its development; to this end, the Botanical Society was formed on 10 June 1913. The Board of Trustees, comprising three members appointed by the Government, one by the Municipality of Cape Town and one by the Botanical Society, held its first meeting on 16 June 1913. On 1 July 1913, the Kirstenbosch estate was handed over to the Board and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden was born.
The original aims of the Botanical Society were to encourage the public’s involvement in the development of Kirstenbosch, to augment the Government grants, to organise botanical shows, and to enlighten and instruct members on botanical subjects. These aims are virtually unchanged today, and the Botanical Society has grown with the old NBG and now SANBI to extend its support to the eight other National Botanical Gardens as well as Kirstenbosch.
The Society, as a national body, has 16 branches countrywide. By 1985, the Society had expanded to the point where a Head Office was required to service and support the branches and manage projects along with the normal administration functions required by a large organization, and the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society separated its operations from Head Office to become one of the youngest branches.
The Society is a registered not for profit organization that has approximately 30 000 members spread across the world. Of these, approximately 12 000 are members of the Kirstenbosch Branch.
The mission of the Botanical Society is ‘to win the hearts, minds and material support of individuals and organisations, wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora of southern Africa’.
The Society has also championed the cause of wildflower protection and conservation outside the gardens, through conservation and education programmes, projects and initiatives. The branches also support the Society with specific programmes of conservation and education.
The Botanical Society as a whole will celebrate its centenary in 2013 along with Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.
In terms of the Society’s Constitution its main objectives are:
- To promote a caring attitude towards the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa...’
- To promote and actively be involved in the conservation, cultivation and wise use of the indigenous flora…’
- To increase knowledge and understanding of the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa through educational programmes…’
- To liaise and co-operate, when considered appropriate, with organisations such as the NBI [SANBI] and others…’
- To interest the people of South Africa and other countries in the progress and development of all the National Botanical Gardens…’