In August 1975, Harry Matthysen established the Skukuza Nursery. All he had was a piece of ground 100m x 45m, 3100 plants and a single garden hose with 28 leaks.
Nevertheless, his mandate was to cultivate grass and other indigenous plants, which would be used to beautify the various rest camps. He also offered advice to the resident park staff who wanted to plant indigenous plants in their own gardens. Within a couple of years, the demand for plants was such that the nursery was opened to the public.
At that time, impala lilies cost R2.00 and cycads were a princely R10.00. As the facility expanded, it became one of the largest indigenous nurseries in South Africa and it played an important role in educating the public about the benefits of indigenous plants. In 1983, a new nursery was built next to the Skukuza staff village. The area was so dense with vegetation that Matthysen and his team were chased by three lions when they went to inspect it.
Furthermore, the nursery is currently concentrating on the collection and cultivation of indigenous plants with medicinal value. In collaboration with local communities and traditional healers, the nursery is working to supply samples of important plants, which can then be cultivated in their home villages. This eliminates the need for herbalists to ‘poach’ plants from within the reserve.
The initiative is in line with the concept of sustainable utilization of natural resources as put forward by organizations like the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and was officially launched on 10 September 2004. Today, the nursery is flourishing.
It contains thousands of indigenous and endemic plants, and a broad selection of Lowveld species can be purchased. With the exception of cycads, all seed is collected in the Park and sent to the nursery for drying and cultivation. There are also satellite nurseries in Pretoriuskop, Malelane Gate and Letaba. The nursery is still actively involved in a number of educational activities, and children from the surrounding areas are often taken here for environmental awareness programmes.
The Skukuza nursery is located 4 km from Skukuza camp on the main Kruger Gate road, close to the Golf Club. Entrance is free and it is a delightfully shady place in which to stroll around.By David Fleminger