Lessons learned as Erica turgida is returned - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew research repository
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Journal article

Lessons learned as Erica turgida is returned

August 2020

Abstract

Erica turgida, a small unassuming pink bushy heath species was listed as ‘Extinct in the Wild’ in 1996. It was last seen in habitat at Kenilworth Racecourse by South African botanist, Elsie Esterhuizen who made an herbarium collection and gave material for propagation to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. It once occurred in small patches on the lowlands around the city of Cape Town now commonly known as the Cape Flats. However, colonial agricultural settlements, and more recently industrial development and urban expansion, have led to the decline and ultimate loss of this species in the wild. Erica turgida has since then been kept from extinction by Kirstenbosch horticulturists and the Millennium Seed Bank Project. Fortuitously, a second collection was found in the collections of the Belvedere Palace Garden in Vienna and returned to South Africa in 2001. Its re-introduction to the remaining conserved natural areas of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, a Critically Endangered vegetation type, proved challenging as it is a relatively short-lived species and no definitive record exists of its preferred niche habitat. Early attempts to reintroduce Erica turgida at Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area and Rondevlei Nature Reserve failed however limited success has been achieved at Tokai which is under the management of the South African National Parks. This paper shows how over a period of 30 years this Erica species has been propagated from cuttings, planted in numerous micro habitats and monitored for survival and recruitment. General protocols for placement of plants and timing of restoration have also been developed and are explained in this paper. This work has contributed towards the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation targets 4, 5, 7, 8, 14 and 16 for the South African National Biodiversity Institute and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

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