Welwitschia Show celebrates new publication and the “king of the desert”

As Kirstenbosch moves through its Centenary year one of the events set to be of huge interest is the “Welwitschia Show “ which will be held in the Conservatory and  the Old Mutual Conference Centre  at Kirstenbosch from 19 to 21 July.

Welwitschia. Photo provided by KirstenboschKnown as the “king of the desert” the Welwitschia is an unusual plant and is uniquely African. It occurs only in Namibia and Angola and is also botanically unique in its physical structure and functionality – so much so that it is the only species within the genus ‘Welwitschia’ and again the only genus in the family Welwitschiaceae. This, the oldest plant in Africa and the national plant of Namibia was the reason for Professor Harold Pearson to come to South Africa; it was he who laid the foundation for the spectacular garden, Kirstenbosch, and it is his vision of this garden that we enjoy today.

In celebration of this a corner of the Conservatory has now been dedicated to this unusual plant and will be officially opened on the 19 July – another living reminder of the first Director of Kirstenbosch .

In addition a beautifully illustrated book, ‘Uncrowned Monarch of the Namib – Welwitschia mirabilis will be officially launched. This monograph on this unique African plant will be a delight for the book   connoisseur, professional and amateur botanist alike, gardener and traveller.

Written and researched by renowned horticulturist Ernst van Jaarsveld from Kirstenbosch and environmentalist Uschi Pond the book is set to become a collector’s item as only 1000 have been printed. Written in English and German this bilingual publication celebrates Namibia’s extensive German-speaking population & strong connection to Germanic countries.  Welwitschia has been cultivated extensively in Germany and many German travellers & botanists come to Namibia.

Welwitschia. Photo provided by KirstenboschUschi relates how the book came about. “ I love travel, adventure and exploring. When I approached Ernst with my first hard-cover publication on the incredible journey of my family research, I wanted to combine my passion for botany and book design.  When he mentioned he had already written up most of the text for ‘Welwitschia’ – it was an instant and winning combination – and so our book was ‘born’.”

High quality and hard cover this is a visual journey and in-depth adventure showing the dedication and enthusiasm by the authors on each page. One and a half years in the making, the book documents how the authors obtained some of the extra-ordinary photographic images contained in the book through this unusual journey.  Sleeping amongst these Welwitschia giants under the rolling mist blanket in the Namib Desert was part of the adventure!

Containing exquisitely rendered botanical art showing the Welwitschia in all its glory, visitors will be able to view (and buy) these Welwitschia botanical artworks as part of the exhibition surrounding the event. The exhibition will feature an eclectic mix of art works: botanical drawings, paintings, abstracts, etchings and even a farmer’s metal sculpture.

This unusual plant has also inspired sculptor Nic Bladen who is showing a series of sculptures and jewellery as part of the show.

Last word from Uschi: “Why Welwitschia? Welwitschia is enigmatic, bizarre, a contradiction, a witness of time – a wonder plant!  I love being creative – it is so satisfying to paint, explore, study, design and publish a book on Welwitschia and in that way make it accessible to everyone fascinated by the natural wonders of our planet!”

  • Posters of the Welwitschia will also be available and are ideally suited for educational purposes: schools, environmental education facilities, perhaps even universities.  Available in two sizes: A0 and A1
  • Books and posters are already available either from the from the Botanical Society bookshop at Kirstenbosch or directly from the publishers – please contact Uschi Pond:  079 181 9188  or uschipond@telkomsa.net  

 

Details:

Exhibition: Venue: Old Mutual Conference Centre – Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden

Dates: Open to the public 20/21 July

Time: 09h00 to 18h00

Conservatory Welwitschia corner:  Entry into the Garden: Adults: R42 /SA Students (with card): R25 / Children (6 – 17 years): R10 / Under 6 years: Free BOTSOC members: Free / SA Senior Citizens (with ID): Free on Tuesdays except on public holidays

Buy online: www.webtickets.co.za

See also http://scenicsouth.co.za//2013/07/uncrowned-monarch-of-the-namib-welwitschia-mirabilis-to-be-launched-at-kirstenbosch/

Dr Ernst van Jaarsveld

Dr Ernst van Jaarsveld is a horticulturist born in Johannesburg in 1953, and started gardening with indigenous plants as a schoolboy.   He matriculated in Linden High School in 1971. He received his National Diploma in Horticulture from the Pretoria Tecknikon.
He started his horticulture career in the Lowveld National Botanical Garden in 1974 where he stayed for 2 years and was then transferred to Kirstenbosch where he still operates as a horticulturist specializing in succulent plants.

Ernst is the curator of the Kirstenbosch Conservatory and is a botanist, garden writer and plant hunter having published more than 200 scientific and popular articles in newspapers and magazines and has numerous medals and awards to his name. He was recently awarded a Doctorate (PhD) through the University of Pretoria for research he conducted on South Africa’s cliff-hanging plants (cremnophytes).

ERNST IS THE AUTHOR OF A NUMBER OF BOOKS AND IS A RESPECTED AUTHORITY ON WATERWISE GARDENING.

Uschi Pond

Uschi Pond was born in Windhoek – Namibia in 1961 and  grew up on a farm in central Namibia on the edge of the escarpment of the Khomas Hochland, with a keen interest in the outdoors and design. Her schooling and first employment was in Windhoek, then she moved to the coastal town of Walvis Bay. She moved to Cape Town in 1982, studied at Terblanche Secretarial College and pursued a secretarial and income tax career with a firm of Chartered Accountants (1984 – 1989).  This was followed by extensive and exciting travels across the African continent by Land Rover. She and her husband spent 3½ years travelling, finally returning from Europe in 1992. Uschi chose another career path and obtained her National Diploma in Nature Conservation from the Johannesburg Technikon, persueing a career with Environmental Consultants for many years.  She also qualified in architectural garden design and landscaping at “Lingray School of Garden Design”- Kwazulu-Natal. She drew up building plans for a stone cottage in the Cederberg, with hands-on building and project management. She spent a 1½ year sabbatical in Germany, doing archaeological excavation and fossil preparation at the “Senckenberg Research Institute – Frankfurt.  Whilst there, extensive family research and learning the skills of desktop publishing, resulted in her first published hardcover book. Art, design and creativity has been a constant throughout her life. First photography and Bauernmalerei (folk art), then formal tuition from 1993 led to extensive drawing, watercolour painting, stone sculpturing and now also digital art and graphic design .

Why Welwitschia?  Namibia is her home country and she is at home in the Namib Desert having  frequented it since her early childhood. She has known Welwitschia all her life.  She also does stone sculpture using the plant as her inspiration because of its sculptural formation.

Uschi has been working independently since 2008 asPond flora & design’ with a focus on:

  • Botanical collection and preservation
  • Courtyard garden design
  • Graphic design & digital art