Written by Fayruz Prince. Photo by by .

Plants are the unsung heroes that provide us with clean air to breathe. Oxygen, an essential component of the air we breathe, is a by-product of photosynthesis, a process that plants have been performing for over 2.5 billion years. While plants are critical for mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, they also offer numerous ecosystem services, such as purifying the air, absorbing gaseous pollutants, cleaning up contaminated soils, and collecting dust, ash, and pollen. Additionally, having plants in our surroundings can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, and increase positivity, leading to improved health and productivity.

However, many plant species are at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction, urbanisation, and other human activities. Nature Connect, for instance, protects 423 ha of endangered vegetation under conservation, providing habitats for wildlife. Here are some critically endangered plant species that require attention and conservation efforts, listed on the IUCN Red List of South African Plants:

Erica margaritaceae (Pearl heath) – Critically Endangered (CR) and endemic to Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area, found nowhere else in the world.

Erica verticillata (Whorled heath) – Extinct in the Wild (EW) but rediscovered in Pretoria and Vienna, currently undergoing a breeding program at Kirstenbosch.

Leucadendron levisanus (Cape flats conebush) – Critically Endangered (CR) due to urbanisation and habitat destruction.

Diastella proteoides (Flats silky puff) – Critically Endangered (CR) with once abundant populations now facing a significant decline.

Erica turgida (Kenilworth heath) – Extinct in the Wild (EW) but reintroduction efforts are underway.

To celebrate Plant Appreciation Day, you can get involved with indigenous plants in the following ways:

  1. Create a green space for yourself by planting a few plants, maybe even a vegetable garden.
  2. Encourage others to embrace plants too by inviting them to a planting activity.
  3. Gift a potted plant instead of a bouquet as they last longer.
  4. Distribute indigenous seeds and saplings from your own garden to others.
  5. Start talking to your plant, as crazy as it sounds, a certain vibration of your voice correlates positively to plant growth. Start by thanking them for the clean air they provide!
  6. Start a compost.
  7. Visit a natural outdoor space in City of Cape Town Nature Reserves, South African National Parks, or CapeNature reserves.
  8. Create awareness for Plant Appreciation Day by sharing this information with everyone you know!

On this special day, let us appreciate the natural gift that plants offer us and work towards protecting and conserving them for a healthier and more sustainable future.