Conservation of Bulbs

The conservation of South Africa bulbs should be of paramount importance to everyone who treasures their beauty and diversity. Conservation through cultivation is only part of a successful strategy. It is also important that plants be preserved in their natural habitats as part of an ecosystem.

The most critically endangered species are those endemics that only occur in low-lying areas susceptable to the effects of human activities. The high diversity of plant life in the Western Cape region means that there are quite a number of species that grow in only one or two localities. These species are under constant threat as agricultural activities and urban areas continue to expand under the pressure of a growing population. Factors that indirectly affect the bulbs under these circumstances are pollution (be it industrial waste, fertilizer or stormwater run-off) and weeds (anything from exotic grasses to acacias). In the summer-rainfall areas species tend to have a wider distribution, but are still threatened by factors such as timber plantations, overgrazing and medicinal plants.

What can be done to conserve our bulb species  from the most critically endangered to those not yet in immediate danger? Understandably so, the regional conservation authorities have limited interest in the conservation of small patches of (often semi-disturbed) land within a maze of wheat fields, vineyards or suburbs. It is therefore often important to cooperate with private landowners on the conservation of endangered plants on their properties. Commited individuals (mostly amateurs) have in a few instances managed to preserve a few species in this way. An example of this is a conservation project that IBSA undertook with the support of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In this case a few hectares on a private farm near Middelpos (in the western Karoo) was fenced off to conserve a population of Daubenya aurea. The area is grazed throughout the year except during the flowering season, allowing the plants to set seed.

In August 2004, IBSA helped to secure the future of Haemanthus lanceifolius in the vicinity of Vanrhynsdorp (about 300 kms north of Cape Town). The farmer had plans to plough an area that contained a healthy population of this species (known from only one or two other localities). IBSA negotiated with the farmer and he agreed to create a reserve for these plants within his new vineyard. Plants occuring outside this area were moved to the reserve and hopefully this area will soon be fenced off. Only time will tell if this conservation effort will remain viable, but at least this population no longer appears to be in any immediate danger.


The rare yellow form of Daubenya aurea.

Another recent positive development is the Cape lowlands conservation project, which seeks conservation incentives (e.g. tax rebates) for private landowners. The Conservation Stewardship Project was initiated with the formation of a partnership between the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board and the Botanical Society (funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership fund). Private landowners should contact Sue Winter ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or visit the Conservation Unit section on the website of the Botanical Society of South Africa ( for more information.

Would you like to become involved? There has recently been an appeal for amateur botanists and interested parties to assist in the conservation of threatened lowland habitats in the Cape Floristic region. For further information contact Tilla Raimondo ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or visit the website of the National Botanical Institute ( to learn more about TSP (Threatened Species Programme) and CREW (Custodians for the Rare and Endangered Wildflowers).



Copyright 2010. Powered by Skytouch Media