Friday, 24 January 2020

Nature Journaling 2020 at the Cavern Berg Resort

This course is being held 05 – 09 February this year. We plan to take advantage of this and include a day trip to the Sentinel car park which is at about 2600m. February is the height of the summer flowering season for Drakensberg and Lesotho alpine flowers. The easy walk from the Sentinel car park towards a view point below the Sentinel Peak gives one an outstanding opportunity to enjoy the incredible scenery and flowers. Elsa will bring along her book on Mountain Flowers, a field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg & Lesotho and guide you on this walk.

The Cavern will provide picnic breakfast and lunch – we will need to leave at 6am for the 2 hour drive via Oliviershoek Pass and Phutathijaba to the Sentinel. 

The view of the amphitheatre from Witsieshoek at about 2400m

The Sentinel, Sani Pass and Naudesnek Pass are three of the top spots in the Drakensberg to see alpine flowers, and January/February are the best times. So we will include this day as part of our Nature Journaling experience. The scenery is spectacular and the flowers outstanding. We will need to ask participants to pay the mountain register entry fee.

The contour path from the Sentinel car park

Nerine bowdenii and other flowers, just off the path

Eucomis bicolor and Galtonia regalis in mass, just off the path

For more information contact Megan Bedingham at

Friday, 10 January 2020

'Know Them By Their Fruits' an illustrated guide to the trees of South Africa

The Botanical Society of South Africa is seeking your support for this new and first-of-its-kind book illustrating the fruiting twigs of 381 trees. The final product is the culmination of ~40 years work.

THE AUTHOR, Trevor Ankiewicz, is a now retired Saasveld Trained forester (1965) with a long and illustrious career in forestry, horticulture and nature conservation.

On retirement he qualified as a Nature Guide. Thus, over his working life and in retirement, he has had the opportunity of visiting most parts of South Africa - where he has been able to collect and illustrate all the species in his book.

The reason he chose to illustrate fruits is that like so many tree-lovers, he found it difficult to identify many tree species from their leaves – since leaves are the most variable of all the plant parts. Fruits, like flowers, have much more stable shapes and sizes – and unlike flowers are mostly more persistent. Thus, if you scratch around under the canopy you may also find remnants of fruits and/or seeds that can be a useful tool for identification.

When asked about how he chose the trees to illustrate Trevor replied:When I first planned this book my concept of a tree was a long-lived woody plant, which developed a sturdy trunk and an impressive crown. Unlike some authors of tree guides I did not regard aloes as trees in the true sense of the word. Our beautiful cycads and tree ferns, to my mind, are also not included here as real trees. In my travels I have yet to come across the colourful Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) and that delightful Pride-of-de-Kaap bauhinia (Bauhinia galpinii) as a shady, truly recognizable tree! However, as the book developed this distinction between a tree and what I regarded as a shrub became more and more blurred. Over time I came to realize that habitat and climate greatly influenced the stature and growth of these plants. A classic example is the ubiquitous Sweet thorn (Acacia karroo), which occurs as a stunted bush in the dry river courses of the Great Karroo, yet develops into an impressive tree with a sturdy black bole and rounded crown in the Mpumalanga Bushveld”.

And so, the choices were made – 381 in total…

As examples, four of Trevor’s illustrations are shown above in much reduced format. They are, starting top left and going clockwise, Kigelia africana (African sausage-tree), Pterocarpus angolensis (Kiaat bloodwood), Cussonia spicata (Bushveld cabbage-tree) and Strychnos pungens (Spiny-leaved monkey-orange).
The page size of the book will be 250 x 170mm (with some 450 pages), and where possible all illustrations are life-size. Where they have had to be reduced the percentage reduction is noted.
In addition, the current botanical binomial, recent old names (because of taxonomic changes) and the “best” common name is given. Where there are strongly contested common names, an alternative is given (but the approach is for tree lovers to adopt a national common name so the botanical binomials will not be vitally necessary in future years).

Where appropriate, and to assist with identification, a few diagnostic notes have been added.
Orders no later than 1st June please

Probable publication date late December 2020

Saturday, 28 December 2019

New Botanical Art Exhibition at Kew Gardens, London

Modern Masterpieces of Botanical Art at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art

Recently opened, this new exhibition of stunning botanical art celebrating 30 years of the Shirley Sherwood Collection.

Split into geographical regions, the exhibition brings together a diverse range of work from across the world. The artworks reveal the exquisite details of endangered plants and newly discovered species. From delicate colour palettes to theatrical arrangements, the visitor can explore a variety of artworks that celebrate the diversity of botanical art.

Read the review from the Financial Times

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Lady Tait returns to Kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch, Cape Town: South Africa welcomes the return of exquisite watercolour paintings to where they were created, another first for Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden at the foot of the majestic Table Mountain. Lady Cynthia Tait (1894-1962), a proficient botanical illustrator with a passion for South African flowers, is being celebrated at a special exhibition in the Richard Crowie Hall in Kirstenbosch from 16 January to 15 March 2020.
Lady Tait’s love of South African flowers can be attributed to accompanying her husband from Guernsey, where she stayed from time to time when he was posted to the Far East, to Africa. Her husband, Admiral Sir William Eric Campbell Tait (1886–1946), was a senior British naval officer, courtier, Commander-in-Chief of the South Atlantic Station from 1942, where he led the Royal Navy, South African Army and South African Air Force, and fifth Governor of Southern Rhodesia.

After the death of Admiral Tait, she married Lancelot Ussher of Luncarty, Claremont, Cape Town, where her love for South African flowers continued to blossom.
Lady Tait’s paintings were inherited by granddaughter, Cynthia Cormack, who granted permission for them to be exhibited at one of her grandmother’s favourite spots, Kirstenbosch.
The paintings were almost forgotten until recently, when Cormack was chatting to eminent Guernsey horticulturist and clematis grower, Raymond Evison, about her grandmother’s works, a number of which were stored at her home in Guernsey. Evison, impressed, contacted the Guernsey Arts Commission and Gateway Publishing, which led to an exhibition in Guernsey in June and July 2018 of some 60 paintings, inherited by Cormack and Lady Tait’s grandson, William Astley-Jones, and the publication of a selection of these paintings in a book titled Tait Florilegium.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Society Chairman, Keith Kirsten, attended the opening of the Guernsey exhibition and, enchanted by the paintings, was immediately determined to bring the exhibition to Kirstenbosch where many of these delightful paintings found their inspiration and, indeed, were actually illustrated on Lady Tait’s frequent visits to Kirstenbosch and during her time at Luncarty.
The Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society is delighted to showcase 66 of Lady Tait’s paintings returning to South Africa on loan for the exhibition, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Duncan Spence of Gateway Publishing and Rickety Bridge Winery in Franschhoek, Western Cape.
Curated by Mary van Blommestein of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Irma Stern Museum, the exhibition will also include botanical art by the Western Cape branch of the Botanical Artists Association of Southern Africa (BAASA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting public awareness of botanical art in Southern Africa. The Lady Tait collection endorses South African-inspired art pieces as pioneers in international botanical art.
Copies of Tait Florilegium, which contains full sized reproductions of the glorious watercolours of selected South Africa wild flowers by Lady Tait, will be on sale at the exhibition, along with beautiful notecards.
The exhibition pays homage to an illustrator, almost lost to the South African art world, and serves as a revival of these exquisite pieces that embrace our natural heritage. It is fitting that the paintings are displayed at the source of their inspiration; in the heart of South Africa’s famous floral kingdom.
The exhibition promises to be one of the art industry’s top events in 2020 and confirms South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden’s unique offering to the planet’s floral kingdom.
Visit and for more information.
For information about the exhibition, contact Catherine Gribble on 021 671 5468 or email