Kirstenbosch, now one of the worlds top seven botanical gardens and celebrating its centenary this year, was a derelict farm when it was bought by mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes and bequeathed to the nation on his death. Picture: Rogan Ward

Cape Town - South Africa is getting two new national botanical gardens – one near East London and another in Limpopo – that will boost the suite of these popular conservation and tourism facilities to 11.

Officials are hoping that at least one of the new gardens will be formally proclaimed this year, which is the centenary celebration of Kirstenbosch – the first national botanical garden established. It was opened on July 1, 1913 and now draws 750 000 visitors a year.

And the Treasury is pumping in R150 million over the next three years to boost the development of all the gardens.

This was revealed last week at a function to mark the publication of a new book, Kirstenbosch: the Most Beautiful Garden in Africa. It was the first event in a year-long programme of celebrating the centenary.

The book is written by Professor Brian Huntley, the former chief executive of the SA National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) the management authority for the national botanical gardens.

Sanbi chief executive Dr Tanya Abrahamse said the three tranches from the Treasury of R40m, R50m and R60m, would all go to developing infrastructure, as well as environmental education, in all the national botanical gardens.

“Really, for us, it’s a new age in garden development, “she said.

Noting the book’s sub-title, she quipped: “I think (Kirstenbosch) is really the world’s most beautiful botanical garden, but we’ll stick with Africa.”

Sanbi chairman Tami Sokotu paid tribute to all those who had been involved in establishing Kirstenbosch and in maintaining and developing it over the century.

“(They have) contributed to preserving the legacy of Africa, and preserving a heritage that is very, very important to future generations of this country… This is one of those great days when we mark the successful history of Sanbi.” - Cape Argus