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'Mandela's Gold'

'Mandela's Gold'

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, November 12, 2019/Categories: Uncategorized, natural history, sustainability, art and design, environment, plants

Nelson Mandela is remembered as a human rights activist, political leader, sports fan, and a patriarch. He has passed on but his life's work has been honored by presidents, religious leaders, and millions of ordinary people. He will also be remembered for a beautiful South African flower that was named after him that will remain as another tribute.

Plant breeders are poorly recognized but they touch everything that can be derived from plants: food, fibers, fuel, and horticultural creations like flowers. In Mr. Mandela's case, breeders worked over two decades to develop a beautiful form of the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae), a wild South African plant. Patiently working at the national botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch this time consuming effort to select, breed, and re-breed individual plants finally produced a golden yellow form of the flower which in the wild form is orange. It was named 'Mandela's Gold' and made available at nurseries, garden centers, and in mail order catalogs.

   Strelitzia reginae cv 'Mandela's Gold'  (credit: Kirstenbosch BG)

After World War II, a French rose breeder worked with colleagues in Italy, Germany, and the USA to developed another fine flower that became known as the Peace Rose. Over one hundred million of that roses had been sold and planted worldwide in the name of peace. It remains one of the most popular roses produced by growers in California.

If Mandela's Gold reminds us of the unfinished work needed to promote human rights, then Mandela's legacy will be a long one indeed.



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