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Blog and News

Parham Gardener takes RHS-funded research trip to South Africa

11th October 2018

We were very pleased when one of the members of our fantastic Gardening Team, Henry Macaulay, was awarded a bursary from the RHS to visit South Africa. Thanks to the Coke Trust Bursary Fund, Henry was able to visit Cape Town and the surrounding area to learn more about the local flora, heritage gardens and conservation techniques.

Joined by Kirsten Kelly from Nymans Gardens, they visited a number of National Park areas with an abundance of plants which locals call ‘fynbos’, derived from the Dutch for ‘fine bush’, referring to the small leaves. The Cape Floristic region has an extremely high level of endemism – in other words there is a wider variety of native plants found, in an area the size of London, than across the whole of the British Isles. What’s more 80 per cent of them occur nowhere else on Earth. Henry had the chance to take in many of these plants, including unique specimens such as South Africa’s national flower, the King Protea (Protea cynaroides).

Even more inspiration was found at Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden. Located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain National Park, the garden is formed in a natural amphitheatre of dramatic, sloped land which made for some fantastic views as well as an impressive habitat. Kirstenbosch also has a new aerial walkway, the Boomslang. The name for the 130-metre long pathway means ‘tree snake’ and the winding route rises above the canopy giving wonderful treetop views.

Spring is a great time to visit South Africa, with so many wildflowers in bloom, but some local plants are sadly under threat. Henry and Kirsten travelled to the Cape of Good Hope to work with a CREW team – Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers. These volunteers search for rare and threatened plants in key conservation hotspots and record their findings.

We’re delighted for Henry that he managed to cram so many amazing experiences into his trip.