Helena Joubert


I am in awe of the combination and incredible variety of plant species and other living organisms which are intertwined, delicately interdependent and is often still unknown. Apart from the obvious threats like development, farming practices and alien infestation, introduction of another species, exotic and even indigenous, can alter the conditions needed for survival of a single species and vegetation type irreversibly.

With so many threatened species to choose from I found it challenging to decide which species to focus on. I did a few quick sketches and eventually chose these two.

Satyrium princeps, a terrestrial orchid, is Redlisted as ‘Vulnerable’ and occurs naturally in the coastal sands from Wilderness to Port Alfred with its habitat under severe pressure by development. There is a stand that grows along the Logoon road leading into Knysna, the show of red flowers in late spring has always impressed me with their princely (‘princeps’) stance, giving me so much pleasure whilst I fear and fret that they will be decapitated by the mowers of the verges. Roadsides are often rich in species and the only place that natural vegetation remains in farming and developed areas, it would be ideal if these can be managed as ‘reserves’.

My other choice is not at all showy and can easily be overlooked and seen as just another green plant. Dioscoreaburchellii, ‘Near Threatened’ is related to Yams and the Elephant’s Foot, a small twining plant that was known from only ten locations in itsrange from Humansdorp to George. During alien clearing at Pledge Nature Reserve, I discovered one bravely climbing toward the light – on the stem of a Black Wattle! It was the first of about thirty plants found in the reserve to date.

Helena Joubert is based in Knysna, and has a deep connection with the local landscape. A horticulturist specialising in vegetation rehabilitation, she is acutely aware of the devastation exacted by humans on our fragile eco-systems and how near impossible it is to truly ameliorate damage done.  She is an active trustee/volunteer at Pledge Nature Reserve in Knysna. In 2017 she exhibited at Avo Pomme, Knysna, under the theme ‘Black to Green’ – inspired by the regrowth after the devastating fires in the area in the winter of 2017. Helena creates oil studies of scented indigenous flowers, of which she also captures the perfume.