About the Author

Zoë Poulsen is a botanist, conservationist, freelance journalist and editor with a PhD in Botany from the University of Cape Town. Her PhD focused on the ecological restoration and rangeland ecology of critically endangered Overberg Renosterveld, one of the world’s most threatened, yet biodiverse ecosystems. This research was funded by South Africa’s National Research Foundation, supervised by Associate Professor Samson Chimphango, Professor. Muthama Muasya, Professor. Timm Hoffman and Associate Professor Pippin Anderson. The project was undertaken in collaboration with the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust.

Originally from the green and gently rolling landscapes of England’s west Dorset, a lifelong interest in plants and their ecology brought Zoë down to the Cape. That first life-changing visit, spent as an intern at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, was now almost fifteen years ago, more than ten of which have been spent living, working, studying and writing about life in the Mother City.

Zoë’s MSc in Botany at the University of Cape Town’s Plant Conservation Unit used aerial photos and ground-based repeat photography to examine temporal change in the extent of afrotemperate and coastal forest in Table Mountain National Park in response to different ecological drivers. The findings of this research have been published in the Botanical Society of South Africa’s popular journal Veld and Flora and in a special issue of the South African Journal of Botany on Biome Boundaries.


‘Notes from a Cape Town Botanist’ was born on a bench on a cold spring day at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, inspired by the prominent botanist, conservationist and author Sara Oldfield, then Secretary-General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). The blog was started to raise awareness worldwide about the importance of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region (CFR). It also reports on the conservation challenges the CFR faces and the vital work of those striving for a better understanding and to conserve it for the future.

Over the years ‘Notes from a Cape Town Botanist’ has grown and blossomed, with support from its readers near and far. Its content has been read by more than 100,000 people from across the globe, published in the Cape Argus newspaper and online by City Press. It has led to interviews with the Citizen Newspaper and a live radio interview with Johannesburg’s Radio 702 about the 2015 Cape fires. Zoë writes regularly for the Botanical Society of South Africa and the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust’s blogs. She has also written guest articles for Africa Geographic and Fauna and Flora International.

When she isn’t hard at work Zoë can be found hiking the mountains and lowlands of the Cape Floristic Region, participating in community based-conservation initiatives as well as enjoying gardening, cooking home-grown produce and environmental photography.

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Taking Action

There are many environmental organisations based in Cape Town and beyond that require the services of volunteers to undertake their work. So if you have a little time to spare please get involved.