Jacques Gerber

Pretoria, South Africa

By Jacques Gerber - Click images to enlarge

I'm based at the University of Pretoria, in South Africa. I'm currently in the second year of my PhD in Botany, my field being wetland ecology. I moved to Pretoria from Rhodes University in Grahamstown where I had studied previously, completing an MSc degree in Botany (sugarcane physiology and anatomy). This makes for a massive jump for me. I'm doing an overview of wetlands, specifically vleis and pans, in the grassland biome in South Africa. Wetlands tend to be very neglected here. Botanists really don't seem to like getting their feet wet.

Map courtesy of CIA World
Factbook 2002 - South Africa

 I've always been interested in aquaria and ponds, especially the plants. Waterlilies are my favorites, my all-time favorite being Nymphaea capensis. I also have a small aquatic garden - an aquarium set up specifically for plants - and will be adding another in the new year (2003). I recently convinced the garden committee at the Department of Botany to replant the departmental pond, and became much more interested in waterlilies as a result. I've been in contact with Kit Knotts for some time now, as well as with Dr. John Wiersema. Hopefully John and I will be going on a field trip to Botswana next year (2003) to collect the elusive Nymphaea petersiana.

In late November 2002, I organized a collecting trip to Rust de Winter Dam, well known for birding because of varied habitats which include broadleaved woodland, rocky woodland slopes, alluvial Acacia veld, mixed woodland, riverine forest, the dam

wall and surroundings, open water, marshy area at the inlet, and areas of grassland when the water level drops. The dam itself is especially known for its unusually warm climate, good fishing and amazing aquatic vegetation.

A colleague went with me, spending the day fishing. He was supposed to warn me if the crocs got too close - but I pointed them out to him. I'd been given a list of what to collect and where to collect, but N. lotus and N. caerulea were on top of the list for me. I collected a beautiful N. caerulea but couldn't get near the N. lotus - a croc was in the way and there was a game fence the other side.

There were some amazing areas of N. caerulea. In one area it was growing in 1m of water or more, and the dam is 1.2m lower than it normally is due to the drought. Food for thought on planting N. caerulea. One plant that I measured had leaves 52 cm in diameter. Hopefully future trips will also provide N. lotus and N. petersiana for study in cultivation.

N. caerulea
Billy Bates Photo

Replanting The Botany Department Pond | The Pond's Progress January 2003
Sidebar - N. petersiana & N. lotus

Field Trips - Lake St. Lucia | Arnot Station
St. Lucia 2003 - Mfabeni Swamp

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