30 November 2013

80 years ago ...

Buchu cultivation in the Economic Beds at Kirstenbosch, 1919. Photo: Kirstenbosch Archives.

‘In the first place there have been brought into cultivation at Kirstenbosch a very large number of species and varieties of plants of known or potential economic value. Some of these are indigenous to South Africa, others have been introduced from other countries.’

This is an excerpt from an article* in The Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa (which later changed its name to Veld & Flora) by Prof. Harold Compton in 1933, 80 years ago. A comprehensive list of hundreds of species from acacia to ‘Zizyphus jojoba’ follows, including some notes on their cultivation, extraction and sales. All this was in an effort to make his beloved National Botanic Gardens at Kirstenbosch seem to be 'paying their way'. He concludes the article: ‘This brief summary of the results of the work done at Kirstenbosch over a series of years strongly warrants the provision of adequate funds and facilities for its continuance and extension. With the means available up to the present everything possible has been done …’
Cultivation of Buchu at the National Botanic Gardens, Kirstenbosch. (A row of uncut Buchu on the right: the other rows have been cut down to the stools. Young Carob trees (two remain to this day) on the left. Camphor laurels (the present Camphor Avenue) in background.) 1919. Photo T.R. Elliott. (Kirstenbosch Archives).

 The buchu beds, with the Camphor Avenue trees in background. 1919. Photo: Arthur Elliot. (National Archives).

The economic beds, June 1919, Kirstenbosch Archives1919.

"Buchu plantations in the economic grounds. Mr Winter’s house in the background." 1946. (The Curators House was built in 1927.) Photo: Blyth Clayton, Kirstenbosch Archives.

*‘Work on Economic Plants at Kirstenbosch’, by Prof. R.H. Compton. The Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa, part XIX, 1933.
Thank you to Alice Notten, Interpretive Officer at Kirstenbosch for making these beautiful old images available.

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