Opening doors for people and wildlife through educational fynbos rehabilitation projects, locally indigenous plant production and horticultural skills training in support of Cape Town’s threatened lowland veld types
Facilitating conservation education for all, specifically promoting, popularising and cultivating custodianship of Cape Town’s biodiversity through the agency of locally indigenous plants
In 2015, our conservation education organisation was born, with the Cape Flats Fynbos Nursery (est. 2006) forming its core business area. Ultimately, at the beginning of 2019, the wildlife charity FynbosLIFE (Locally Indigenous Flora Education) was formalised as a Non-Profit Company and our plants and projects continue to grow! We have broadened our reach to serve Greater Cape Town, and have a dream to collaborate with like-minded conservationists in other urban spaces in South Africa. If that’s you, let’s connect!
The educational value of planting locally indigenous flora in our gardens is untold: curious observation of the wildlife attracted by a local fynbos plant at home may kindle a sense of wonder and admiration for fauna and flora, the Fynbos Biome as a whole, or contribute to other forms of environmental custodianship. Many of our local plants are drought resistant too, and could significantly boost garden water conservation if planted appropriately.
It has always been our intention to raise the profile of the rich natural heritage of the geographical region of the Cape Flats. There’s so much more we can do, and with the help of our champions, we’ll keep digging!
Caitlin’s multifaceted job as Managing Director of FynbosLIFE puts many of the skills acquired from her non-linear career path to work. A childhood interest in veterinary science was steered towards human medicine, but ultimately the pull of natural science led her to botany, pollination ecology, horticulture, and wildlife habitat restoration. She has worked at SANBI, WESSA and Iziko Museums, and dabbled in insights analysis, french translation, art, writing, design, marketing and communications, while studying a PhD in Botany (plant-animal interactions) part-time.
It was Caitlin’s mother, Jane – long-time environmental educator and volunteer garden guide at Kirstenbosch – who inspired her to follow a fulfilling career in fynbos conservation. Although she is not the veterinary or reconstructive surgeon once intended, Caitlin has had extraordinarily intriguing experiences dissecting cadavers; delivering babies; assisting in surgery on humans and animals; treating township pets; documenting threatened plants off the beaten track all over the Cape Floristic Region; teaching schoolchildren from Harmony Flats to Pondoland about plant monitoring, and, more recently, researching pollination and floral colour divergence in the snotrosie.
Having carried out extensive botanical fieldwork, she uncovered an Endangered plant species new to science, which contributed towards the declaration of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment. She considers this discovery her proudest moment, given that it helped protect one of the most spectacular natural areas on Earth from construction work.
Now, through FynbosLIFE, she devotes her life to the rehabilitation of landscapes altered by urbanisation, and does so with the utmost care and passion for her work. Click here to listen to Caitlin chat to Phemelo Motene on SAfm about biodiversity restoration and how she believes that locally indigenous plants can heal the earth.
Pat’s qualifications include a BSc (Hons) in Ecological Science from the University of Edinburgh (1977), a teaching diploma from the Dundee College of Education (1980) and a PhD from the University of Cape Town Botany Department (1989). During her undergraduate years in the Forestry and Natural Resources Department, her interests gravitated towards plant ecology and soil science. After moving to Cape Town in 1984, she became fascinated by the Cape Flora: exploring, conserving and restoring this wonderful floral kingdom has remained a strong passion of hers ever since, both through various working spheres and as an active Botanical Society member and volunteer in local conservation work. For this reason, Pat is “delighted to be associated with FynbosLIFE and to assist wherever [she] can in this worthwhile initiative”.
Pat’s work experience during the past 36 years has mainly focussed on the ecology and management of invasive alien plants and fynbos vegetation dynamics, including seed ecology and restoration ecology. During full-time employment at the City of Cape Town municipality (2005-2018) as the City’s Biophysical Specialist, she was also responsible for City-wide conservation planning and advisory work. Pat currently co-supervises post-graduate students at Stellenbosch University, where she is an Associate Professor Extraordinary in the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, and Associate Researcher at the Centre for Invasion Biology. Her publication record of 55 peer-reviewed scientific papers or chapters and ten semi-popular articles is available on request. Apart from academia, Pat works through her consultancy, Cape Ecological Services.
Peter is an ecologist and entrepreneur with special interests in ecological restoration and the Succulent Karoo (plus a growing love for the Fynbos Biome). He completed his BSc (Hons) degree at the University of Cape Town in 1994. During this time Peter undertook research in both marine and terrestrial systems. Since then he has enjoyed research positions that have taken him from investigations of nutrient availability in the seas around Antarctica to analysing spatial pattern in the tropical forest communities of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 1996 Peter returned to South Africa and his fascination settled on semi-deserts. Between 1997 and 2001 he undertook a PhD at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, on a number of aspects relating to plant community dynamics of the Succulent Karoo. He continued this research through a post-doc at the University of Cape Town in 2003 and 2004 and is now an Honorary Research Associate at UCT’s Plant Conservation Unit.
In 2005 he initiated the Namaqualand Restoration Initiative, a research, advocacy and implementation program involving three senior research staff, and numerous partner organisations and individuals. The principal achievements of the initiative have been the development of methods and systems for the restoration of the pre-existing ecosystems and biodiversity on areas degraded by mining, cropping and over-grazing.
Since 2009 he has also been the director of Nurture Restore Innovate, which aims to provide long-term ecological advice, support and mentoring to projects or practices that affect landscapes at larger scales. Nurture Restore Innovate extends the work of the Namaqualand Restoration Initiative, both geographically, and by creating systems to implement the restoration at scale. This initiative has created, and supported, 30 full-time, career-path jobs, and two ecological restoration businesses, entirely owned and managed by people from Namaqualand.
Peter is currently completing a sabbatical at the University of Colorado, Boulder, as a Fulbright Research Scholar, but looks forward to getting more involved with FynbosLIFE projects on his return.
Anthony was a trailblazer in Cape Town lowland fynbos conservation and restoration, and the true hero behind the Erica verticillata success story. Born in Cape Town, he studied botany, horticulture and landscape design at UCT and Cape Technikon. He started working at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden back in 1983, managing the Plant Production Nursery and promoting South African plant species with horticultural potential to the South African nursery industry. In 2002 Anthony was appointed as Nursery Manager, and took on managing and leading the living collections and threatened species programme. He rebuilt the Collections Nursery and developed and implemented an integrated conservation programme focussing on threatened Cape Flats Sand Fynbos habitats and species. His extensive knowledge included propagation and cultivation of South African plants, commercial horticulture and complex conservation programmes. After retiring from Kirstenbosch, Anthony continued to contribute to conservation in various ways including through his work at Tokai Park and FynbosLIFE.
With the greatest sorrow we said goodbye to a fynbos conservation, horticulture and restoration giant on 7 July 2020. Anthony died after contracting Covid-19 in hospital while he was recovering from stem cell treatment for myeloma. Perhaps his greatest conservation legacy was the reintroduction of Erica verticillata to the wild, where it now lives on, largely thanks to his efforts. This flagship species raised the profile of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, and demonstrated how effective people partnerships can even revive plant-pollinator partnerships from extinction. That is why the FynbosLIFE logo depicts an orange-breasted sunbird pollinating Erica verticillata. Anthony taught us that people that care and work hard enough can not only mitigate harm to the earth, but accelerate the recovery of ecosystems. Let’s try and follow in his footsteps! He also had so many great ideas and plans for our work at FynbosLIFE. I hope we will still be able to implement these in his honour.
Bank name Nedbank
Account name FYNBOSLIFE
Account number 1127617079
Branch code 198765
Please email proof of payment to email@example.com
Support us with a CoralBloom fynbos floral face mask or any CoralBloom textile homeware products (tea towels, napkin sets and table runners) – designed by Dr Michelle Jooste with botanical illustrations by Ann C. Jooste and Megan L. Jooste for our collaboration range exclusive to Happy by Nature. 5% of your purchase proceeds will be donated to FynbosLIFE. View options
Would you like to create your own community or school garden? Why not start your own fundraising campaign for our Cape Flats Fynbos Nursery to grow plants for your project’s original veld type?
Register as a FynbosLIFE champion on Back a Buddy
Receiving the John Winter Prize for Best Stand on Show from Botanical Society of South Africa Chairperson Dirk Müller, at the Kirstenbosch Plant Fair (2015)
David Parry-Davies, Enviropaedia Editor, presenting Caitlin von Witt with a Silver Biodiversity Award for FynbosLIFE (2016)