History of the Free State NBG

The Free State National Botanical garden dates back to 1965. During the 1963 Kirstenbosch Jubilee Year Tour, it was decided that the Free State warranted a botanical garden for the cultivation and displayed of the varied flora of the province. Several sites were investigated in the city centre, on the slopes of Naval Hill, part of the farm, Brandkop and the farm Winter Valley, about 10 km from the main post office. The last-named site was the most suitable and it was purchased in 1965 by the Bloemfontein city, which transferred control to the Trustees of the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa.

The chosen location was ideal. Not only have interesting facts about the past climatic history of South Africa been revealed by the study of pollen grains taken here, but also the naturally wooded koppies and kloofs with a chain of dams nesting in the valley provide a lovely setting for the garden. Furthermore, a most interesting outlier of Karoo- like vegetation occurs naturally within the area which forms part of the grassland biome.

The State President , the Hon, Jim Fouche, officially opened the garden on 22nd February 1969. He marked the occasion by planting an Olea africana tree which can still be seen. Since then the Garden has been used extensively for research purposes by university students, schools, ecologists and also visited by nature lovers who come to stroll and enjoyed the plants and bird calls in the peaceful setting.

Early in South African history this site was inhabited by Iron Age Sesotho dwellers. Remains of their pottery have been found and are housed in the herbarium.

Wars have left their mark on this site too. British troops were stationed in the vicinity during the South African War (1899-1902). The dam was built to hold water for their horses and the stone wall can be admired to this day. Monk's Head beacon, 1436 m above sea level and an old stone wall mark a British patrol path used the during the South African War. Piles of horseshoes found near the nursery complex indicate that it might have been the site of a farrier's shop. Half a centuiry later, the office attached to the curator's house was built by Italian prisoner's of war during World war II.

Also to be seen in the garden is fossil tree trunk ( Dadoxylon arberi) from Harrismith district, which is estimated to be 150- 300 million year old.

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