The new species of the Hesperantha (evening flower) genus from the iris family. Picture: ODETTE CURTIS

Cape Town - Local conservationists are hoping that wealthy – and perhaps just slightly vain – philanthropists from Britain and elsewhere will compete fiercely over the next few months for the honour of immortalising themselves or a loved one by naming a new SA plant species.

The plant, a beautiful bulb species from the Hesperantha (evening flower) genus that is part of the iris family, was found in Nov-ember in the Overberg by Odette Curtis, Suurbraak-based co-ordinator of the Renosterveld Management Conservation Project.

Renosterveld is a separate lowland vegetation type also found in the fynbos region, and is now critically endangered because its rich soils attracted most of the Western Cape’s agriculture in the last 300 years.

An on-line auction for the right to name the plant went live last Wednesday and bidding will close at 8pm on October 31 at the annual meeting of conservation group Flora & Fauna International (FFI), at the London headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society.

FFI is running the auction in conjunction with the new Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust that is being formally launched in Suurbraak next month, and that is working to try to protect the small remaining remnants of Renosterveld.

Curtis’s Renosterveld Management Conservation Project has amalgamated with the Trust. The opening bid has been set at £500 (R6 445), and will increase in £100 steps.

In April last year, during the first such event of its kind on the African continent, Camps Bay couple Rose and Mike Hainebach paid a whopping R550 000 for the naming rights to a beautiful indigenous iris species of the Moraea genus discovered three years ago on the West Coast. They outbid rivals from as far afield as Australia during the black-tie gala auction at the Mount Nelson hotel.

- Cape Argus