The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is the largest international plant conservation project in the world.   Its aim is to safeguard as many as possible of the planet’s plant species by saving their seeds for the future.  The current goal is to bank seeds from 25% (approximately 75,000) of the world’s plant species by 2020.

The Seed Bank is housed by Kew Gardens in the UK in a highly-specialised facility, at both very low temperature (- 20°C) and humidity.  Seed can potentially remain viable for hundreds of years under these conditions.

Seed Bank Partners so far are from more than 50 countries, including South Africa’s SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) which has been involved almost from the start.

SANBI has asked Hermanus Botanical Society to help with this project by collecting seed from plants in Fernkloof that has not yet been banked.   Current emphasis is on plants that appear infrequently only after a fire (the Fernkloof one of December 2015) – while there is still the opportunity – but collections are also being made more widely in the reserve.

So if you wonder why you have seen a plant with a colourful string attached, or its head in a piece of old stocking, this is probably why!

For more information visit

Article by Jane Crawford      Images: Sandy Jenkin, Christine Wakfer and Margaret Stanway

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Searching the ‘waterfalls’ for the Red Disa – and a cell phone on ‘life support’!

A group of intrepid Botsoc members left Hermanus at 6am on Saturday as the full moon was setting in the west – hoping to avoid the heat that was forecast for the day.

We were joined by Mike Ford of Hermanus Bird Club in search of elusive high-montane bird species. Ronnie was his perfect companion – wearing binoculars rather than camera for the day! They soon disappeared over the horizon never to be seen again.

We climbed up the north side path to Galpin and were happy to see many Thereianthus juncifolius flowering in the marsh next to the stream. From Galpin Hut we headed down to the jeep track collecting, on the way, seeds for the Kew Millenium Seedbank.

We were most distracted by the many insects that seemed to be in abundance – a pair of Table Mountain Beauty butterflies flitting from flower to flower, frustrating us in our efforts to photograph them! We spotted large black Carpenter bees amongst the yellow Aspalathus flowers, a variety of wasps and small grasshoppers with bright orange wings.

Our search for the Disa uniflora took us up a slight incline from the jeep track to Disa waterfall.  The site was inaccessible as the pool was surrounded by thick growth.  However, we were not disappointed, as 2 plants of the orchid Holothrix brevipetala were found growing nearby in the dry stony ground.  This orchid was seen for the first time in Fernkloof in 2013.

We retraced our steps to the jeep track and made our way to the Mossel River and climbed up to the falls about 150 m from the track.  The pool was surrounded by fern and overhanging plants and we could not resist the temptation to take the plunge. The Cape River frog floating on the surface seemed totally unfazed by the commotion; we were probably its first sighting of the human species.  Damselflies hung from the ferns, one allowing for a real close-up.

In our pleasure at having a dip, one cellphone did manage a bit of a wetting!  It was immediately wrapped up in warm cloths for its journey home, where it is on ‘life-support!

Our adventure did not end here though.  Christine, through her binoculars spotted a red disa-like flower on top of the fall rocks and, undeterred we clambered our way to the top. We discovered many orchid plants with seedheads, and the red did indeed turn out to be the Red Disa, but sad to say, one that must have broken from its mother plant. Our reward was great though –  evidence indeed that the Red Disa did flower at the falls.

We retraced our steps, refreshed from our dip, and listed many of the flowers on the way. Beautiful Gladiolus martleyi, the blue Aristea oligocephala with silvery bracts, many Watsonia schlechteri, pink Indigofera species and Liparia vestita just coming in to flower.

An unforgettable day!

Article and images; Sandy Jenkin.   Holothrix; Pat Miller.   Map; Liz Hutton.

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Our Phosphorescent Sea

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Originally posted on roncorylus:
Last night we went down to the beach and were quite gobsmacked by the beautiful phosphorescence which we saw in the breaking waves and spray along the Hermanus coastline.  To stand in the dark and see…

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Disas at Pig’s Snout

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Originally posted on roncorylus:
A short walk up to the beautiful waterfalls at Pig’s Snout this afternoon was well rewarded. We saw around fifty Disa uniflora flowers spread up the cliff face.  Water cascaded gently around them and there were…

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Aasvoelkop Walk

This gallery contains 31 photos.

Originally posted on roncorylus:
This morning we set off at the crack of dawn in order to allow ourselves an opportunity to climb Aasvoelkop before the heat of the day.  It was a wise choice as we had perfect walking…

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Fernkloof Orchids seen in 2016

This gallery contains 39 photos.

Originally posted on roncorylus:
Featured above are most of the Orchids seen in Fernkloof during 2016.  The Orchid Year started with the fabulous Disa forficaria – and what a stir it caused!  Then we had a bit of a break…

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The Last Walk of 2016

This gallery contains 15 photos.

Originally posted on roncorylus:
This morning saw just three of us on the mountain searching for new post-fire plants,especially Orchids.  There were very few of the latter out, as the season is drawing to an end, and we saw only…

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