Agri Kultuur September / September 2016 - Page 68

Madine Swart Pictures provided T he common names of plants are shaped through time and general use – history and tradition speak to us through them. As these names are neither standardised nor scientific, they differ from region to region and are often shrouded in controversy. The lifework of the late Christo Albertyn Smith was edited by E. Percy Philips and Estelle van Hoepen, and published in 1966 as The Common Names of South African Plants. At that time it was stated that thousands of common names were not yet recorded and many hundreds may already have been permanently lost. South African common names for plants are narratives of relationships between farmers and the plants they either tried to tame/ domesticate or used as grazing for their animals. The names describe how farmers made connections between plants and their livestock, and this is how a unique “language of the veld” was created. The first systematic record of Cape vernacular names of native plants was during the period of governorship by Simon van der Stel (1679-99), most probably by die Governor’s gardener and botanist, Hendrik Barend Oldenland. The wealth of plant lore from the Bushmen and Khoikhoi had a significant influence on vernacular plant nomencla-