Embracing South Africa’s paradise of plants

'It really is the most wonderful place,' says East York Garden Club member

There are over 22,000 species of plants in South Africa, and Anna Leggatt set out to see them all.

Leggatt shared her recent journey with the East York Garden Club, as well as her encounters with other life forms along the way. A member of the local club herself, she was more than happy to show several photos of each plant and flower she saw during her trip.  

The plants varied from orchids to lilies, and even to some aloe and succulents. Since she carries a degree in botany, Leggatt described each plant by its scientific name. Those names included Rhodohypoxis rubella, Disa porrecta, Gladiolus dalenii, and more.  

When asked how she remembers each name, Leggatt explained that she almost always had a plant expert accompany her on her travels. 

“Our group was provided with a list of different plants, and if you weren’t quite sure which were which, you’d Google it and hope the right one would turn up,” she said. 

South Africa is the only country that’s home to one of the world’s six floral kingdoms.  

“There are more bulbous plants there than anywhere else in the world,” Leggatt said of the Cape Floral Kingdom.  

Leggatt grew up in England near Stratford-on-Avon, and built her own rock garden when she was only 12. She was recently awarded the 2017 Garden Writers Association’s silver medal for her article “Dandelion – Is it a weed?” She has written pieces for Toronto Botanical Garden, Landscape Ontario, The Globe and Mail, and even for the East York Garden Club.  

Fellow East York Garden Club member Monique Gauthier mentioned that she, too, will soon be going to South Africa to visit the extravagant plants.  

When asked about her experience at the event, Gauthier replied, “Anna’s really great. We haven’t seen a presentation like this in a while.”  

This is the third time that Leggatt has visited South Africa in hopes of finding as many of the plants species as she can.   

“It’s like a paradise,” she said. “It really is the most wonderful place.”