UKZN and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife have signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding on combining their botanical strengths and resources. Ezemvelo will integrate its 33,000-specimen herbarium into University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Bews Herbarium, while UKZN will make all its digitised plant distribution data available for use by the provincial conservation agency. Ezemvelo currently holds the Killick Herbarium (CPF), which is housed at their Pietermaritzburg headquarters in Queen Elizabeth Park. Under a 99-year loan arrangement between the two partners, the Killick Herbarium will be relocated and integrated into the larger and better-equipped Bews Herbarium (NU) at the Life and Agricultural Sciences Campus of UKZN in Pietermaritzburg. All specimens will be barcoded, digitised and imaged before being integrated. This will extend the Bews Herbarium collection to over 180,000 plant specimens, a quarter of which have already been digitised.

The Bews Herbarium dates back to 1910. It is the fifth largest herbarium in the country and the largest in KZN. “This is a win-win situation whereby the Bews Herbarium extends its collection for botanical research and Ezemvelo gets access to a considerably larger plant dataset which will allow them to make more accurate conservation assessments” says Dr. Bytebier, the current Curator of the Bews Herbarium. The integration of the Killick into the Bews Herbarium is financially facilitated by the Natural Science Collections Facility, which has contracted two curation technicians, Mr. Mnxati and Ms. Mathe, for a period of one year to help with the task.

The first specimen is being handed over by Dr. Clinton Carbutt, the current curator of the Killick Herbarium, to Dr. Benny Bytebier, the curator of the Bews Herbarium. From left to right: Mr. Sifiso Mnxati (Scientific Curation Technician), Dr. Clinton Carbutt (Ezemvelo botanist and curator of the Killick Herbarium), Dr. Boyd Escott (Ezemvelo Biodiversity Data Manager), Dr. Benny Bytebier (Curator of the Bews Herbarium), Ms Rose Hamilton (Ezemvelo Biodiversity Database Manager) and Dr. Christina Potgieter (Collections Manager, Bews Herbarium).