Biogeographical Principles in Horticulture

Creating an Erica and Fynbos Gardenn for Education and Amenity


  • Anthony Hitchcock South African National Biodiversity Institute



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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How to Cite

Hitchcock, A. (2019). Biogeographical Principles in Horticulture : Creating an Erica and Fynbos Gardenn for Education and Amenity. Sibbaldia: The International Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, (17), 101–120.