Trees of the Garden Route: Mossel Bay to Storms River, by Elna Venter
Trees of the Garden Route: Mossel Bay to Storms River is a superb field guide written by a remarkable person. Elna Venter died shortly before this beautiful book went to press, having until the last worked on improvements for the present second edition. She had already been in declining health for several years while producing the privately published first edition, of which the entire print order of 1000 copies was sold out within five months.
Her lifelong interest in nature, and plant life in particular, was sparked into action when her daughter was studying veterinary science at Onderstepoort and the need for updated study material on poisonous plants became evident. She set about criss-crossing South Africa with her camera, then conceptualised and developed a multimedia educational tool on Powerpoint. By now an external subject specialist, she expanded her original idea and in 2001, under the leadership of Professor Christo Botha of Pretoria University's veterinary faculty, she developed a CD-ROM, Plants poisonous to livestock in Southern Africa, for which both received a special award for innovation in education. Her interest became a mission fired by the recognition that the future of South Africa's incomparable flora can be assured only by continuously educating those who will one day be the decisionmakers. Over the ensuing ten years she dispensed voluntary environmental education for school groups at the Witwatersrand Botanical Garden (now the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden), simultaneously developing her publications. In 2003 she produced a synoptic guide coupled with a CD-based hyperlinked manual on The Trees of the Witwatersrand, and in 2006, a similar guide and CD on Trees of the Tsitsikama. She wrote several popular articles for "Dendron", the magazine of the Dendrological Society of South Africa (she served in its central committee for ten years), including The Loneliest Tree in the World, Wise words about the Web. Having settled in Mossel Bay and continuing her lectures to gardening clubs and Bonsai circles as well as writing identification guides for the plants in the local museum garden, she devoted the last ten years of her life to rounding off the present work, the first to be published on the topic since Fried von Breitenbach's 1974 Southern Cape Forests and Trees. It's 256 pages cover 110 species of indigenous trees, more than ten percent of the national total, with 1800 full-colour photographs of the trees, their trunks, leaves and fruit, all taken by the author herself. Mossel Bay was an ideal vantage point, situated about midway along the Garden Route which threads through the Cape Floral Kingdom, a World Heritage Site containing the world's richest array of temperate flora. It is a hot spot of unique floristic endemism, narrowly localised along the southern coast, much of it now lost through human encroachment and overexploitation, but precious remnants survive. What remains today are precious vestiges that largely enjoy protected status, though there is in places substantial infestation of invasive alien plants, and can now be more closely known, understood, and loved thanks to this book. Elna Venter was no indoor researcher surrounded by secondary research material. What we hold in our hands is primarily Elna's own work, notably the unique key which so greatly facilitates identification, as well as her consistently splendid photography and the accessible terminology she uses. Trees of the Garden Route: Mossel Bay to Storms River by Elna Venter is a treasure chest for tree enthusiasts, gardeners, botanists, but also for educators. Had Elna lived a little longer, we might have learned of her discovery of the intricate web of relationships between life forms dependent on her well-beloved trees, insects, birds, spiders, mammals and other plant life such as tree orchids, creepers and fungi. But her achievement is fulfilment enough for one life.
This is an excerpt from the guide: Trees of the Garden Route: Mossel Bay to Storms River, by Elna Venter.
Title: Trees of the Garden Route
Subtitle: Mossel Bay to Storms River
Author: Elna Venter
Publisher: Briza Publications
2nd edition. Pretoria, South Africa 2012
ISBN 9781920217204 / ISBN 978-1-920217-20-4
Softcover, 15 x 21 cm, 256 pages, distribution maps, 1800 colour photographs
Venter, Elna im Namibiana-Buchangebot
Trees of the Garden Route guarantees to make your hike through the forests between Mossel Bay and Storms River more meaningful: 100 trees and 1800 photographs!
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