I’ve always looked at Sendelingsdrift in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park as a place to be endured on the way to the excitements of Akkedis Pass, Domrogh Pass, Potjiespram, De Hoop and the wilderness camps inside the park. On a recent visit I discovered a reason to love your stopover here – the new Sendelingsdrift nature garden and herbarium.
This is the realm of plant fundi Pieter van Wyk and his sidekick Gavin Josop, who showed us around.
It’s early days yet but I loved the medicinal garden, planted with species that have been known for generations to have power to fix things like fever, headaches and stomach aches.
Part of the purpose of the nursery is to nurture threatened species and replant them in the park. Eventually it will sell some succulents and there will be a picnic spot, but the most important work being done here is the creation and cataloguing of a gene bank of Richtersveld plant species.
Are you wondering why this is so important? Well, about 7% of Richtersveld plants are on the Red Data list of threatened species and 29% of the plants that occur here grow nowhere else on earth.
Pieter, who grew up in the area, spends hours and hours hiking the Richtersveld in search of plants to document. Over the past few years he has been writing an identification guide to some 1400 Richtersveld plants (hopefully to be published later this year).
We learned that on one of his forays he searched to rediscover Conophytum ernstii, which had been lost to the scientific world since the late 1980s. Although it looks very similar to another Conophytum species, Pieter recognised the distinctive white dot in the centre. ‘The species population is stable, with no threats where it lives on a small upper slope of Sandberg inside the park,’ he later confirmed.
Next time you visit Sendelingsdrift, take some time to appreciate the rock garden in front of the nursery and herbarium. You’ll find it on the right hand side just before the campsite. Most of these plants were saved from the mine area before mining began. See how beautiful they are with a little water from the river and try to remember some of the names on the info plaques.
More about the Richtersveld
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