Janine Steytler and Ismail Ebrahim
The Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) Annual Workshop was held on 17 – 19 May 2019 at the Goedgedacht Farm in Riebeek Kasteel. The venue was amazing and also fitting to host the CREW workshop, because of the incredible vision of the Goedgedacht Trust to support and transform rural communities by providing development opportunities to underprivileged youth.
The setting delivered the perfect ambiance for a pleasant and informative weekend. Friday afternoon’s program kicked off with an enlightening talk from our first speaker, Lize von Staden who spoke about the Threatened Species Program and its contribution to the National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA), and how this influences the work of CREW. This was a perfect way to start the workshop, as it gave our volunteers perspective and insight as to how CREW contributes to the NBA and the evolution of biodiversity assessment in South Africa.
Following this, an explanatory talk was given by Dr Don Kirkwood, curator of the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens. Dr Kirkwood highlighted the need for restoration of threatened species and habitats and presented a model for involving volunteers more actively in restoration projects.
Saturday commenced with updates from the all the CREW nodes around the country, followed by introductory presentations by all the new CREW CFR interns starting their journey as conservationists. The interns focused on their highlights thus far and shared their future plans with the volunteers. The future of CREW looks bright with the renewed energy and enthusiasm the interns showed.
Dr Nicola Bergh from the Compton Herbarium delivered a fascinating talk on the showy everlastings in the Asteraceae family and enlightened everyone on using diagnostic characteristics to identify Syncarpha and related allies occurring in the Cape Floristic Region. This had everyone excited and also allowed for the opportunity to observe specimens under the microscope.
After lunch, the team went on a field trip to Voëlvlei Nature Reserve, which is home to two critically endangered vegetation types. This unique area has a very high concentration of threatened plant species, which kindled the excitement and wonder of both botanists and volunteers alike. The highlight of the trip was monitoring Marasmodes spinosa, which only occurs on this reserve and the adjoining Elandsberg Stewardship Nature Reserve.
The evening brought about an opportunity to unwind and socialize with an entertaining biodiversity themed quiz, which had both experts and volunteers laughing and learning some fun facts about biodiversity.
Sunday morning was launched with feedback sessions from the CREW volunteer groups focussing on their highlights over the past year. This was followed by marvellous talk by Daniel A. Zhigila from the University of Cape Town (UCT) on his work revising the genus Thesium. Daniel’s passion and adoration for his work and more specifically his interest in Thesium species had everyone in wonderment about this overlooked genus.
There was also an opportunity in the practical session to see the morphological characters that are important for Thesium identification under the microscope. This sparked new interest in the genus and hopefully the CREW volunteers will be up for the challenge of identifying and monitoring Thesiums now.
The final session of the day was facilitated by Dr Tony Rebelo who did a practical demonstration of the iNaturalist species identification tool. After concluding the workshop for this year, the day purposefully ended with a field trip to Swawelberg farm, which included a respectful visit to the late Steven Cousin’s research plots.
This year’s workshop was a great success and it is always such a pleasure to reunite with all the volunteers and share experiences and achievements from the past year. The CREW team would like to thank all the volunteers for their remarkable contributions and ceaseless efforts towards CREW. Looking forward to yet another successful and bountiful year of monitoring threatened plant species.