“So you’re like a gardener, right?”

It’s a question Cape Nature Botanist Rupert Koopman hears a lot. Botanists don’t really have a PR budget, but Koopman, a fynbos expert isn’t complaining. The job satisfaction quadrant of his life is safely ticked.

You know how one of South Africa’s biggest marketing tools is the bio diversity of our country? And how specifically, the Cape Floral Kingdom is the most bio diverse spot on the planet? Well, Koopman is one of the guys fighting to keep it that way. Hear him speak about his love of fynbos – “the honey-smell of a clump of restios”, “the tartness of chewing an oxalis stem”, “the sweet slimy weirdness of eating an Albuca flower: and how “Asparagus attempts to bury its cat claw spines in your shin” – and you know our floral kingdom is in the safe hands of a fanatic.

“As a ‘fynbos botanist’ for CapeNature, the Western Cape’s conservation agency I need to be familiar with the numerous variations and complex interfaces (and a good proportion of the more than 9000 plant species) of fynbos, renosterveld and strandveld that make up the fynbos biome.”

With that floral know-how Koopman consults on the better management of protected areas as well as the expansion of off-reserve conservation in order for future generations to be able to sample from the massive fynbos palate we’ve got today as opposed to a pale shadow of tiny remnants.

In short, Koopman and his dedicated fynbos friends at organisations like CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) are working on getting us to care as much about fynbos like the world’s smallest protea (the Protea odorata) and renosterveld – as we do about rhinos.

#BestAdvice: The benefit of volunteering
Whatever field you want to be in, make sure you bone up on the content. In the beginning I slept with flower guides next to my bed and flipped through them constantly. Knowing your stuff is the best way to help earn and keep respect in the workplace. Volunteer as much as you can, (within your chosen field should be your first preference) but you can pick up valuable people skills by getting involved at school or church groups. Because not many people volunteer, odds are you’ll have a leadership role pretty soon if you’re dependable. Be open to new experiences and get out of your comfort zone. That’s why it’s called ‘experience’ and you won’t get anywhere without it.”

*By Tudor Caradoc-Davies