Today is Earth Day, and the theme for the year is protecting threatened and endangered species. Oxalis attequana is a lovely example of how secure habitat can protect species, even rare and highly localised ones typical of our Cape flora. Oxalis attequana is a high altitude specialist found only on the Attakwas and Outeniqua Mountains. Despite its rarity, it is safe because its habitat is safe. In less remote places, the only way to prevent plant extinctions is to protect representative habitat and species diversity through formal nature reserves, and have much better land-use environmental decision making and enforcement than we have now.
Many other plants are not so fortunate - Earth Day for species is a big deal in South Africa where we have the world’s richest temperate flora with around 20,500 plant species, an estimated 6% of the entire global plant diversity. Two-thirds of our plants are found only within our SA borders, many as narrow endemics. This unfortunately means we also have extraordinary numbers of species threatened by habitat loss, invasive species, poaching and ecosystem disruption – 5,445 plants in one of the categories of conservation concern as assessed by our remarkable Red List of South African plants in 2009. This total will much higher in the soon to be released 2018 National Biodiversity Assessment.
The Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden Oxalis collection put together by Prof. Dreyer and Dr. Oberlander from our Botany and Zoology Department represents part of what a botanical garden can contribute to species conservation – supporting ongoing research to understand the species diversity, distribution and characteristics, and later as we create duplicates, to bring these amazing plants into display to get the public to realise just how wonderful and complex our flora is, and how very sad it would be if they were lost forever.
Find out more about Earth Day 2019: https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/
Read more about this plant on our online Garden Explorer – visit https://sun.gardenexplorer.org/taxon-1438.aspx