Today’s much-anticipated trip to the Drakensburg Mountain had us up and eager to go at 6 am. We picked up Chris Dalzell, Curator of Durban Botanic Gardens, and Brian Malus, an intern from France, en route. Pouring rain was in the forecast for the entire day, however, and Chris quickly made some phone calls and arranged a splendid alternate plan for the day.
Our first stop was at the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanic Garden. Isabel Johnson met us at the office, and chatted with us about the Garden’s historic focus on economic botany and current focus on indigenous plants. The Garden is now a part of SANBI, and has a mission to collect, display, and promote conservation of the eastern grasslands. We strolled over to the café for breakfast, meeting the recently retired Curator, Brian Tarr (also an alumni of the Longwood International Intern Program). A tour of the Garden concluded our visit, as Brian showed us the extensive collections and discussed the challenges of combining indigenous plant conservation with good horticultural design.
Chris next took us to the Makaranga Garden Lodge, where we met the head horticulturist, Hendrelein. This private estate was sold and converted into a small, luxurious, lodge in 2002; the previous owners’ gardens are extensive and now a highlight of the guest experience.
Before stopping for lunch, we stopped by the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve. This area is home to an impressive gorge where two rivers meet. It was absolutely breathtaking, both in beauty and nearness of the path to the edge!
To conclude our rainy outing, Chris took us to the Muti (medicine) Market in downtown Durban. About 70% of the locals use medicines derived from indigenous plants, and the response of the suppliers seems to unchecked. Chris identified specimens as we picked our way through the narrow street, discussing the challenges of abiding by strict collecting regulations while such overharvesting goes on. He estimated that only around 20-30% of the plants harvested for the market are actually sold, the rest is thrown out.
While completely unplanned, our rainy day in the Durban area introduced us to a host of public horticulture locations and challenges.