Kogelberg BotSoc AGM Annual Report

Botanical Society of South Africa : Kogelberg Branch
AGM 21 July 2018 Annual Report

– By Tim Attwell, Chairman 

It is more than appropriate to begin this Annual Report by paying tribute to our former Chairman, Merrilee Berrisford. (Merrilee correctly insists that the word is indeed ‘Chairman’ and not the neologism ‘Chairperson’, since the ‘man’ in the word ‘Chairman’ refers to the Latin manus, a hand, and not to the male gender of Homo sapiens.)

Merrilee has guided, inspired and managed the Kogelberg Branch of the Botanical Society with a vigour and enthusiasm that is impossible to match. Under her leadership the Branch has flourished and become famous throughout the Botanical Society of South Africa for its many and varied programs and activities and its happy relationships with the Botanical Society of South Africa and its many branches. Merrilee’s irrepressible good nature has made her ‘the friend of all and the enemy of none’. Merrilee, we salute you and are deeply grateful. Although we know that you richly deserve a rest, it is difficult to see you step down.

Merrilee, in typical pose.

Here follows a review of the ten portfolios that make up the ongoing activities of the branch:

  1. Finance. The Annual Statement of Accounts is available from Tim Attwell (cell: 082 343 2501, email: attwells@mweb.co.za) for anyone who might be interested.
  1. Education. The branch has partnered with and financially supported the Whale Coast Conservation organisation based in Hermanus to provide environmental and nature educational experiences for scholars. We are aware that we need, as a branch, to initiate our own educational programs and hope to do so in partnership with the Curator and Education Officer of the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens as the new Education Centre of the Harold Porter NBG begins operating this year.
  1. Harold Porter NBG Liaison. The Branch enjoys a happy relationship with the Curator, Bernie Carolus, and staff of the Harold Porter NBG. Plans are afoot to expand our involvement with the Gardens both in promoting the Gardens and in specific areas of its work, including hosting pensioners and assisting in the Herbarium, Nursery and Education Centre as the new buildings at the Harold Porter NBG are brought into service. We are grateful for the provision of meeting space for both our monthly talks and bi-monthly committee meeting. We look forward to partnering with the Rooi Els Conservancy Committee in establishing a new Eco Centre for the information and education of visitors to the Gardens, the premises for which have been set aside by the Harold Porter NBG.

  1. Undesirable Developments. The Branch remains registered with the Overstrand Municipality as ‘an interested and affected party’ and receives, reviews and comments on notifications from the municipality of proposed developments requiring comment, suggestions and objections. The Branch has also been active in seeking solutions to (a) the invasion of Metrosideros excelsa (New Zealand Christmas Trees) in the Sunny Seas area of Betty’s Bay, and (b) the problem of indiscriminate clearing of plots in the interests of fire safety but to the detriment of biodiversity.

New Zealand Christmas tree Metrosideros excelsa

Betty’s Bay plot cleared of all alien invasives as well as all fynbos. The alien plants will re-establish themselves far sooner than the fynbos.
  1. Invasive Alien Control. The three hack groups, Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay and the Wednesday Hack, directly associated with the Branch, continue to be lively and active, drawing in participation of both members and the wider community. Special tribute is due to the conveners, Frik Potgieter and Chris Geldenhuys, for their inspiring leadership. We should also note with rich appreciation the foundation laid for the present success of the hack groups by Ed Silberbauer who has ‘handed in his chainsaw’, but remains a talisman. We are especially delighted that the valley to the north east of Clarence Drive between Betty’s Bay and Pringle Bay has been officially named ‘Ed’s Valley’ by the Overstrand Municipality and a sign erected in honour of both Ed and all those who laboured there over many years. The rich growth of indigenous fynbos, especially Erica perspicua and Erica patersonii, this year is testament to their years of dedication. ‘Good Plant, bad plant’ posters are beginning to appear in various places in the Hangklip to Kleinmond area for the information of residents, thanks to Charlotte Rademeyer and Nicolette Louw. We look forward to developing these informative and instructive posters proliferating!

    Ed Silberbauer stands alongside the new Ed’s Valley signage.
  1. Communication. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to Jeannie Harning for her work in editing the newsletter during the year under review and regret that the pressure of work has forced her to resign from this responsibility. Barbara Attwell has once again taken on this role. We are also profoundly grateful to the Succeed Group for the professional production and appearance of the newsletter. We are also very grateful to Natalie van Wulven for setting up and administering our Facebook page, ‘Kogelberg Branch of the Botanical Society of SA’, which currently has 173 ‘Likes’ and is followed by 178 people. Gwen Coetzee has taken over the task of distributing hard copies of the newsletter from Merran Silberbauer – to whom we also owe our heartfelt thanks.

  1. Talks and Outings. The heartbeat of the Branch is our Monthly Talk, faithfully arranged by Merrilee Berrisford, supported by Andrea Benn, John Benn, Peter Berrisford, Barbara Jenman and many others. For years Merrilee has arranged speaker after speaker who have inspired, entertained, informed and educated us and others from the wider community. Merrilee will continue in this role for the remainder of 2018, but then we are seriously in trouble as Merrilee has indicated that she really needs a rest from this job too! The monthly Botanical Walks and Rambles continue. An interesting fact is that in the four or so years that I have been involved with these walks not one has been rained out!
  1. Membership. The committee is very concerned that we need to expand our reach to a wider circle of people from varying demographic groups within our area and find ways to ‘win hearts and minds’ of people ‘wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora and vegetation’ of our area. In addition, our intention is to develop workshops and courses to help people to develop the properties they own or occupy in ways consistent with the natural environment of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. For this purpose a ‘Garden Club’ (final name to be decided) is in the process of being formed, the first event of which will take place on Monday 23 July 2018.

    Expanding our reach.
  1. Publications. The book Your Place in the Kogelberg has continued to sell well, the second print run of which is now all but sold out. The Afrikaans translation, Jou Plek in die Kogelberg, has been completed and is now in the final stages of production as an e-book, through the kindness of the Succeed Group. We still desperately need sponsorship for the printing of a hard copy. Production of Jill Attwell’s book, The History of the Betty’s Bay Wildflower Society, as a e-book has been completed and is available online.
  1. Botanical Society, National. It is with great sorrow that we have noted the controversy surrounding the relationship between the Council and Executive Director of the Botanical Society of South Africa and the Kirstenbosch Branch – and especially the implications of this controversy for the Botanical Society of South Africa as a whole and for the operations, projects and management of all branches. The committee commends to members the forthcoming Special General Meeting of the Botanical Society of South Africa on 17 August as a possible new beginning and urges that as many of our branch members as possible to attend. We note, at the same time, that the proposed new constitution for branches that will be before the SGM corresponds almost exactly to the constitution of the Kogelberg Branch, drawn up by our committee at the time with extraordinary foresight over thirty years ago. While we deeply regret the controversy, we note that our branch has, until now, enjoyed a cordial relationship with both the staff of the Botanical Society Head Office and the Executive Director. This, however, does not preclude us from forming our own mind on the matters in dispute.

Editor’s note: For your further information and understanding, below is an organogram of the Botanical Society of South Africa as a whole.