The Fernkloof Herbarium preserves a collection of over 4000 pressed plant specimens and has been accorded International Status.
It is a priceless botanical resource regularly used by researchers, students, botanical society members and visitors.
Data on every pressed specimen is currently being loaded onto the BRAHMS (Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System) international database which provides an on-line integrated management system for herbaria, botanic gardens, seed banks and botanical survey.
This database will shortly be available to all Hermanus Botanical Society members and to the botanical world.
An excellent library of botanical books compliments the Herbarium collection.
The Fernkloof Herbarium, like so much else at Fernkloof Nature Reserve, was the brainchild of 'Doc' Ion Williams.
When Professor Jimmy Orchard retired to Hermanus in the 1970’s his enthusiasm for our mountains and flora led him to accept the challenge laid down by Doc Williams to collect specimens of every plant in Fernkloof. He set to with a will and soon had heaps of presses containing precious plants – and nowhere to store them other than the verandah of his house.
The first building of what was later to become the Botanical Centre at Fernkloof was completed in 1978 and the collection, some 600 specimens, was moved and housed in cabinets made by Eric Jones, co-founder of the Hermanus Botanical Society. These are still in use today.
From small beginnings the ‘Orchard Herbarium’ (added to by Priscilla Drewe and Lee Burman amongst others), now houses more than 1250 species of plants collected in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve itself.
A separate collection of coastal and lowland plants made largely by Sheila Williams is also housed at Fernkloof. This collection must be regarded as historic and irreplaceable, as many lowland sites have been transformed by development and the plant population totally lost.
As an aid to students and researchers, a separate collection was compiled, largely by the efforts of Priscilla Drewe, on small cards in plastic envelopes – known as the ‘Students’ Herbarium. Thus the main collection is protected from undue handling and visitors and students can consult these cards at will.