The Aloe, Cactus and Succulent Society of Zimbabwe is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its founding by hosting its third international Congress: Xerophytica 2014 – Plants for our Future.
Previous ACSSZ conferences in Harare – including the world’s first-ever Aloe conference in 1975 – attracted more than 300 international participants. This year’s Congress will be held on 20–21 June at Wild Geese Lodge, and there will follow three post-Congress tours starting on 22 June.
There will be speakers coming from as far away as Saudi Arabia. Also included will be presenters from Kenya and from most of the South African botanical institutes, as well as local speakers. Presentations will span a very wide spectrum of interests – from the latest updates in botany, through medical uses of indigenous plants, to practical tips on landscaping with succulents for waterwise gardens. There will also be special sessions on plant and flower photography and the world’s largest succulent – the baobab.
Residents of Harare will be all too aware of the problems of securing water for domestic use, let alone for gardening. With the latest climatological reports indicating that southern Africa will be among the regions worst-impacted by climate change over the next 40 years, a switch to xerophytes – plants able to tolerate long periods without water – is a wise move. Major themes to be explored by the Congress include the popularisation of waterwise plants and the role of nurseries and gardeners in preserving endangered species from extinction due to loss of natural habitat.
Not that the aesthetic and green-fingered aspects will be neglected. The Congress will also feature a plant-themed art exhibition and sale, with artists are coming from as far away as the US and the UK. The organizers are still seeking additional local artists – working in any medium – who would like to exhibit. In addition, there will be exhibits and sales of a wide range of plant-related products: new food preparations, health and cosmetic products, and products for keen gardeners. A panel on waterwise landscaping by well-known international and local experts will provide real “take-home” material that can be put into practice by participants.
The Congress will provide ample opportunity to mix and socialize informally with presenters and exhibitors. During the two days, lunches and teas/coffees will be provided, as well as a welcoming reception with entertainment on Friday evening and a Congress dinner on Saturday evening. Think of Xerophytica as the HIFA of the plant world!
The first post-Congress tour – on Sunday 22nd June – will be a day’s outing by bus to Ewanrigg Botanic Garden and will include teas, lunch and a guided tour, as well as ample opportunity for individual exploration. The following day, Monday the 23rd, there will be a 4×4 outing to the Great Dyke to explore the home of Zimbabwe’s signature aloe – Aloe ortholopha – and the other rare species found in the area. The third tour, also a 4×4 event, begins on Tuesday the 24th and heads for the Eastern Highlands, where participants will botanize and socialize for four days. The first two days will be based in the Nyanga area, followed by two more days based in Chimanimani, and an interesting return route to Harare is planned on Saturday the 28th. Expeditions will be made to numerous plant habitats, including the mountainous terrain of Zimbabwe’s least-well-known national park – The Corner, where seldom-seen aloes grow and where nearly every tree is cloaked in indigenous orchids.
Because spaces are limited and catering must be arranged, preregistration is essential. The deadline is 16 June. Full details can be found on the ACSSZ website: www.aloesocietyzim.com and facebook/ACSSZ.