‘My name is Ziah Booysen … my experience here was very interesting as I have always wanted to know more about plants. Ever since I starting coming to Princess Vlei I fell in love with plants… It’s nice to actually learn more about nature.’
Ziah is one of 30 learners from Levana Primary and Lotus High who braved the cold and rain to do planting in our new restoration plot on the Northern shore (Briana Extension). This area of Princess Vlei has the right soil to restore critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos which is critically endangered because urban development has destroyed most of the areas where it can grow.
The learners were planting twelve bags of seeds which had been collected and prepared by Alex Lansdowne and his restoration team. The seeds included Protea scolymocephala, Protea Rebens, and mix of annuals. Altogether, about 100 litres of seed were put in the ground. The seeds were protected by branches arranged in circles, called ‘arrays’.
Restoration consultant Alex Lansdowne explained to the learners: ‘My team and I collected a whole lot of seeds from grasses and proteas and Ericas, and put them in a tent. Then we made a big fire. We took the smoke from the fire and pushed the smoke through a pipe in to the tent. So we tricked the seeds into thinking that there’s a fire. Because fynbos seeds need fire. If there is no fire, they don’t grow.
‘If we plant the seeds now, by December the will be only this big. And in December we will be in the middle a hot and dry summer. Now imagine if you are a tiny little plant, and you have those hot dry winds in February, you will die. If you grow plants in your garden you’ll water them in summer, but we can’t water these because they are wild plants. So we are going to help the plant by building a shelter for them called an array… so that next summer, when it is hot and dry, the plants will have a little bit of shade, and if there is a little bit of rain the array will help to catch it
In all twelve bags there are probably about a million seeds of about twelve different species.’
The learners worked in groups to scatter the seeds, rake them into the soil very carefully to avoid plants that had been planted by other learners on June 2. They then gathered branches and leaves from the eucalyptus trees which had been felled on site to enable restoration, and used these to create the sheltering ‘arrays’.
Altogether, twelve of these arrays were created by the learners.
While the Levana students were busy with this, the Lotus High learners gathered with Lisakhanya Mathiso and Ruby Sampson from the African Climate Alliance, to learn about the climate and other environmental crises facing us, and how young people can get involved. This is what Ruby and Lisa said about this discussion:
‘We started off discussing what the students knew about climate change and environmental issues, and how the climate crisis effects their everyday lives. There was a deep discussion about climate issues and solutions; from flooding in Cape Town because of the recent storms, to the restoration of ecosystems through planting trees and indigenous plants (which they were doing later that day). The group discussed the possibile renewable energy solutions for South Africa; such as solar, wind, water/hydro and even nuclear power.
‘We also spoke about the strain that the climate crisis can take on the mental health of young people, with the weight of solving it on their shoulders. After this heavy conversation we all jumped up and began a fun game about gratitude, by sharing the thing that brings them the most joy in life - and we had a good laugh! The session ended in reflection, where the students shared personal experiences, finding strength and comfort in each other.’
After this session, the Lotus High learners also planted out the seeds and created sheltering arrays for them.
Huge thanks to the learners and teachers of Levana Primary and Lotus High, the African Climate Alliance, and Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust managed by Nedbank Private Wealth, the Kirstenbosch branch of the Botanical Society and the Botanical Educational trust, for supporting our restoration and educational work.
Huge thanks also to Gill Palm Taylor of Briana Crescent, who helped us with hot water for the learners' hot chocolate after one of our flasks broke.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.