BIOGEOGRAPHICAL PRINCIPLES IN HORTICULTURE: CREATING AN ERICA AND FYNBOS GARDEN FOR EDUCATION AND AMENITY

Anthony Hitchcock

Abstract


With more than 780 species, Erica is the largest genus in the Core Cape Subregion, once referred
to as the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), in South Africa. The redevelopment of the Erica Display
Garden at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden to fulfil aesthetic, conservation and educational
purposes is described. The author draws on decades of field work in the CFR to open a window
for botanic garden visitors and schoolchildren who have not had the privilege of experiencing the
unique flora of the CFR. An explanation for the extraordinary diversity of the CFR is explored.
The challenge of engaging with visitors and at the same time highlighting the diversity of ericas
and fynbos while overcoming the difficulties of growing wild species out of their natural and
niche habitats is explained. The most effective way to display South African ericas and fynbos
is discussed. The use of phytogeographical themes is preferred as a suitable method to display
diversity in botanic garden horticulture. Nine planting beds totalling 8,000 m2 were redeveloped
to represent six distinct phytogeographic regions identified in Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic
Region (Manning & Goldblatt, 2012). Nineteen of the twenty largest families and genera of the
Cape flora are also represented in these displays. Interpretation was created to provide information
on the defining features of each region. The phytogeographic theme was used to emulate typical
natural floristic features of each and to bring the concept of geographically driven plant diversity
to the attention of the visiting public and students.

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