The first collection of plants growing in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve was started by the retired Professor of Soil Science from Natal University, the late Jimmy Orchard and kept in his own home in Voelklip. Dr. Ion Williams encouraged him in this work as he was also making a collection of plants growing in Vogelgat Reserve while Sheila Williams was busy with a collection of plants growing along the coast.
Frank Woodvine, a forester from Zimbabwe, was appointed the curator of The Fernkloof Nature Reserve in 1976; his office was the first building in what became the complex of the Botanical Centre. The 600 specimens collected by Professor Orchard were installed in this building in cupboards made by Eric Jones. He and Dr. Ion Williams were co-founders of the Hermanus Botanical Society. Once the present Herbarium was built Ion Williams made the cupboards to house all the Fernkloof collection and that of the coast.
To quote from the minutes of the Botanical Society, “The highlight of 1983 was ‘FLORA 83’ in Cape Town where the society acquitted itself with honour and distinction. Another big event, which has put us on the botanical map of South Africa, was the opening of the Hermanus Herbarium by Dr. Bernard de Winter, director of the Research Institute in Pretoria. With him in the first photograph are the mayor of Hermanus, Professor Frances Gonin and the chairman of the Botanical Society, Dr. Dickie-Clarke.”
In the second photograph on the left are Dr. Ion Williams and his wife Sheila. In front of them is Priscilla Drewe who had arrived in Hermanus the previous year from Zimbabwe. She immediately became involved with the flowers and the clearing of alien vegetation in both the Fernkloof Reserve and Vogelgat Private Reserve. Also present were
Mrs. A. Bean, Bolus Herbarium. E.G H. Oliver, Stellenbosch University. Miss D. Snyman, National Botanical Gardens. Mrs. P. Farrall, National Botanical Gardens. Dr. Marie Vogts, author of the book, “SOUTH AFRICA’S PROTEACEAE. Know them and grow them.”
When Professor Orchard became more interested in growing Disa uniflora than collecting plants, Priscilla was asked to take over the Herbarium; this was the start of her dedicated and meticulous work over more than twenty years, she collected 1164 plants. Other contributions have been made by Lee (Robertson) Burman, who is now in charge of the Herbarium and is an expert on the Ericaceae family, Frank Woodvine, the Curator of Fernkloof for over twenty years and a few smaller contributors.
To begin with the herbarium was known as the Orchard Herbarium, in 1983 the name was changed to the Hermanus Herbarium and known world wide by the acronym, HER. The collection conforms to the international numbers for each genus and is in the correct order starting with the Mosses, Ferns, Monocotyledons and finally the Dicotyledons, ending with the Asteraceae family. For quick reference and to preserve our main collection we have specimens on small cards covered in plastic and in alphabetical order according to the genus.
There is also a collection of Ericas from all over the Cape Floral Kingdom collected by Ion Williams as he revised the Leucadendron genus for his doctorate; this he completed at the age of 60!! Surely this is an encouragement to us all!!
Written by Belle Barker with assistance from Lee Burman and Frank Woodvine.
(Frank wonders if there is another town the same size as Hermanus in South Africa or the world that has such a large and world recognised herbarium and website run by volunteers as that of Hermanus Botanical Society?)