Annual 3rd Year Botany Excursion 2019 – Another Year, Another Success!
The Department of Botany and Plant Biotechnology hosted its annual “3rd Year Botany Excursion” before the final quarter of the 2019 academic year. The event is organised by Prof Michelle van der Bank, together with her demonstrators led by Mr Ryan Rattray. This excursion takes third-year botany students on a five-day trip to the beautiful Cape Floristic Region, to explore the rich diversity that the Western Cape Province has to offer.
Students participate in a carefully tailored programme that encompasses aspects of taxonomy, economic botany, eco-tourism and conservation. Fynbos, Renosterveld and Medicinal Plants were among the topics in store to explore the centre of diversity in South Africa. The students enjoyed hiking in Franschhoek’s Fynbos and studied the wildflower displays of the West Coast. They were guided by Ms Helene Preston, a member of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW), which is a body supported by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The body is comprised of citizen scientists who aim to survey and monitor plant species of conservation concerns. Ms Preston was an excellent field guide who provided a wealth of information to the students during their visit to the wildflower reserve.
This year (2019), the group was privileged to have Prof Pete Hollingsworth, Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburg, who is a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg. Prof Hollingsworth shared his knowledge with the group in a lecture focusing on why botanical gardens are important in conservation efforts across the globe. To add further excitement, Mr Simon Milne, a Reguis Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, joined the excursion group on two of the days during his visit to Cape Town.
The students were ecstatic to partake in this year’s edition and gave the following testimony:
“The 3rd year excursion was a wonderful, educational experience. Each day we learnt more about the plants around us: those in the Nama-Karoo and the succulent Karoo, in the Renosterveld and, of course, the beautiful flowers of the West Coast. Let us not forget how much we discovered about economic botany and its impact on our daily lives. We left Mooiplaas Wine Estate knowing from which cultivated grapes different wines are manufactured and how conservation can be supported through economic activities. At the end of the day, we were tested on our absorption of the new material. Writing tests every day helped facilitate our learning experience and taught us how to work under pressure. We had a memorable walk with Andrew (Mr Jacobs, who is the Botanical Guide at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden) and enjoyed our tour of the Compton Herbarium. The excursion was, overall, informative and most enjoyable. It was an experience we would happily repeat.”
The Organizing Team is looking forward to putting together another fun-filled programme for 2020, which is scheduled to take place between the 30th of August and the 3rd of September 2020.