After years of persistent campaigning by botanist, Professor Henry Pearson, in May 1913 the South African Government 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.
Today 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 Botanical Society has grown with the old NBI (National Botanical Institute) and now SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) to extend its support to the nine other National Botanical Gardens as well as Kirstenbosch.
The Botanical Society also champions the cause of wildflower protection and conservation outside the National Botanical Gardens, through conservation and education programmes, projects and initiatives.
The Botanical Society, as a national body, has 16 branches countrywide most of which are associated with the botanical gardens they support. 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 organisation, and Kirstenbosch Branch was established, its initial focus Kirstenbosch Garden.
Currently, the Kirstenbosch Branch has some 14,000 members, approximately 75% of total BotSoc membership.