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A gift that gives back to a rare tract of misbelt forest

Astonishingly, only 0.5% of land in South Africa is forested. And within this, our increasingly rare mistbelt forests occupy an even tinier fraction.

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On the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal lies one such special place. Ferncliffe. It is the precious remnant of a biome that originally stretched over 2000 hectares. In a largely dry country, Ferncliffe is blessed with high rainfall. Humid, and swathed in mist, it is a magical tangle of vegetation at the edge of the city’s urban sprawl.

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Although Ferncliffe is small, it still contains an astonishing diversity of life, ranging from large mammals like bushpig and caracal, to unusual millipedes and amphibians, a species of carnivorous snail, and the enormous monkey-catching crowned eagle. It harbours unexpected, often secretive creatures that dwell in, and depend upon, the profusion of indigenous plants that grow there.

Unfortunately, a tide of alien plants is threatening the ecosystem’s survival. This environmental degradation is an enormous problem. But you can assist Ferncliffe forest wilding to restore the biodiversity of this mist-drenched wonder.

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To help fund the registered NPO’s vital work, local fine artist Connor Cullinan is producing a series of original art prints that are sold online as open editions via Since 1991, Cullinan has participated in several solo and group exhibitions at a number of respected galleries – these include Obert Contemporary, Erdman Contemporary, Barnard, whatiftheworld and Daor Contemporary. His screenprints have been shown at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, Cape Town Art Fair and Turbine Art Fair. Outside of South Africa, he has showcased his work in Queretaro and Oaxaca in Mexico; his paintings and prints form part of the Nando’s permanent collection and are on show in various countries; and his work is held in private collections in Europe and the United States.

His beautifully illustrated images in aid of Ferncliffe are based on the fauna and flora that can be found in the forest and on its fringes. The first two prints in this ongoing series have already been released and were produced at Black River Studio in Cape Town. They depict a tenderly hand-drawn porcupine and the vibrantly yellow Forest Weaver. These art prints make a meaningful acquisition, whether for a formal art collection or to grace the walls of your home.

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Ferncliffe has made it possible for members of the public to support the project in other ways, too. You can adopt an existing tree, plant a tree (which comes with an exquisite tree certificate appointing you as an honorary forester), make a straightforward donation, or contribute to unemployment alleviation by sponsoring a day’s wage to clear invasive aliens. Whether it’s for conscious corporate gifting, or a thoughtful gesture for a friend or loved one, you’ll be reaffirming how much the world needs forests, and how much these forests need us…

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Shop with purpose at As a festive special offer running from 8-20 December 2021, all trees that can be planted at Ferncliffe will be available at 25% off.

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Credit: Vanessa Stephen, Dave Southwood