Upgrading of the Indigenous and Medicinal Gardens
Wolwekraal Conservation and Research Organisation (WCRO), applied to the GCBR Flexible Micro Fund to support upgrading of the indigenous and medicinal gardens at the Prince Albert Tourism Bureau on the property of the Fransie Pienaar Museum in August 2020.
The existing indigenous garden was established by in 1993 by Pat Marincowiz and Sue Dean, about 20 years ago and was inspired by a visit to the Sonoron desert Museum garden in Arizona. It was arranged as four compartments that showed typical plant species of renosterveld, karoo koppies, plains and riparian areas around Prince Albert. Rock specimens showing the geology of the area were assembled with the help of Dr Judy Maguire. The garden was cared for initially by various residents but has become species poor, overgrown and has lost its signage. The medicinal garden was established with Rufford Small Grant funds in 2010 by Renu-Karoo employees and interns.
The first step in the garden rehabilitation project was to document the plant species surviving in the gardens. We then compiled a list of 120 indigenous plant species available from Renu-Karoo Nursery in Prince Albert that could be used to supplement the existing collections in the two gardens. Labels for each of the plant species to be planted in the gardens were then compiled. Each label shows the plant family, the common and scientific names and the habitat where it grows. Labels were also prepared for each of the major geological formations represented in the garden, namely quartzite, tillite, chert, shale and calcrete.
The next step was to prune back the existing plants, remove dead ones, add soil and generally prepare the area for replanting. Renu-Karoo staff and Wolwekraal Nature Reserve work experience student, Callum Clark, assisted with this task. Callum, a 3rd year Nature Conservation student at NMU in George involved a large group of learners from the local SKILLS School and from the Path to Prosperity Centre (managed by the Prince Albert Community Trust) in helping first with the preparation and then with the planting, including the development of a new section of medicinal garden. Additional rocks of the five most prominent geological formations were carefully arranged in the garden in the correct sequence.
The Relationship Between Geology, Topography, Rainfall and Vegetation
While the garden was being refurbished, we compiled information on the local landscape, geology and plants to prepare a poster on the relationship between geology, topography, rainfall and vegetation. The poster, printed by Print@ in Beaufort West, bears the logos of stakeholders including the funder (GCBR), implementers (Renu-Karoo Veld Restoration and Wolwekraal Nature Reserve), the Fransie Pienaar Museum and the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport that partly supports the museum.
Local Uses of Medicinal Plants
We then prepared a pamphlet on the local uses of medicinal plants. The information was compiled from local interviews, input from the employees of Renu-Karoo as well as from published sources. Copies of this pamphlet are available free of charge at the Tourism Office and from the Fransie Pienaar Museum.
Finally we labelled all the plants and put up the signboards on the Tourism Office wall, opposite the garden, to help visitors and school groups understand the display. We also displayed the project on our Facebook page (http://www.wcro.co.za) and received the following comment from journalist Amelia Genis “Well done. Every town needs a poster like this”.
Image 1 & 2: Labelled plants in old and new sections of the medicinal garden
Image 3: Quartzite and Dwyka tillite geology and associated plants in the veld garden
Promoting Education, Knowledge & Learning
The local newspaper “Prince Albert Vriend/Friend” published two articles on the upgrading of the gardens. In March 2021 the Garden Club and local schools will be invited for a tour of the gardens. We believe that upgrading of the two gardens will advance the GCBR’s vision of People and Nature Living in Harmony because they support a number of the GCBR themes. The gardens promote Education, Knowledge and Learning through easy access to information on the local flora for local people, school learners and tourists. We hope therefore that more people in the GCBR domain will take an interest in the surrounding natural environment.
The project involved collaboration among a diverse group of people and institutions including the local Tourism Association, the Museum, local residents, university students from NMU and two community organisations involved in education, as well as a number of businesses and a conservation-orientated NPO. Since the medicinal garden showcases locally-used medicinal plants, some of which are or could be of economic importance (for example wildeals and kougoed), and generate a more diverse economy, the project also touches on the Economic Diversity and Livelihoods theme of the GCBR.
The unspent part of the budget will be used for maintaining the garden including weeding, pruning and replacement of plants and signs as required over the next 24 months as well as for the printing of additional pamphlets on the medicinal plants.
Compiled by Sue and Richard Dean
Photos courtesy of Sue and Richard Dean