The Gold Medal Award is the premier acknowledgement for outstanding botanical research and contributions to the advancement of botany in South Africa offered by SAAB. It is awarded only in exceptional circumstances to outstanding candidates.

The Silver Medal Award also acknowledges significant contributions to the advancement of botany in South Africa.

The Bronze Medal Award, known traditionally as the SAAB Junior Medal for Botany, is offered for an outstanding thesis on a botanical subject which results in the conferring of a doctorate at a South African university.

A Certificate of Merit is awarded for outstanding contributions in the scientific, technical, artistic, educational or any other field that results in the advancement of botany in South Africa. Nominees need not have any formal training in botany.

The Best Young Scientist Award consisting of a certificate and R1000 cash is awarded to the best oral paper delivered by young botanist under 30 years of age.  Adjudication takes place by the LOC.

Best Oral paper by a PhD is awarded with a certificate and R1000 cash.  Must be within one year of completing the degree (i.e. for a student just having completed their Masters degree, and starting their PhD) There is no age limit. Adjudication takes place by the LOC.

Best Oral Paper by an MSc is awarded with a  certificate and R750 cash. Must be within one year of completing the degree (i.e. for a student just having completed their Honours degree, and starting their MSc) There is no age limit. Adjudication takes place by the LOC.

An Honours Award   for the best oral paper presented by an honours student was first given out in 2016 and consists of of a certificate and R500 cash.  It is awarded for  research conducted while registered for an Honours degree, but within one year of completing the degree.  There is no age limit.  Adjudication takes place by the LOC.

Awards for posters are offered in the following categories: Conservation/Ecology, Ethnobotany, Physiology and Systematics. The categories can be adapted/added to by the LOC to reflect any unique circumstances/themes of the congress.  SAAB contributes R250 cash but additional prizes such as books can be added by the LOC. Adjudication takes place by the LOC.


Guidelines for nominations

Gold and Silver Medal and the Certificate of Merit for Botany: Nominations for these awards can be made by any SAAB member by 31 August of each year to the SAAB president. Awards are decided by the SAAB Council and are presented at the annual conference AGM dinner. A curriculum vitae of the proposed candidate must be submitted, as well as a complete list of publications and an evaluation of the candidate’s scientific contribution to Botany.

Bronze Medal:
-> Only doctoral degrees awarded by South African Universities are eligible.
-> Only theses written in English will be considered.
-> The candidate must have graduated with a doctoral degree between 1 August 2014 and the end of July 2015 or candidates that have not yet graduated may provide written proof from the University that they have fulfilled all requirements for graduation for a doctoral degree by the end of July 2015.
-> The candidate may not have been previously nominated for this award.
-> The Council will generally accept only one nomination from each institution. However, in exceptional cases where there are a number of candidates who have been awarded their degrees and are considered to be equally eligible for the award, the institution may submit two nominations.
-> Late submissions will not be considered.

Nominations must consist of the following:

  • A digital copy (.pdf) of the PhD thesis.
  • A letter of support from the Head of Department or School.
  • The reports of ALL the external examiners (will be kept confidential).
  • A brief curriculum vitae of the student.
  • A written motivation from the nominator(s), which includes comments made by the examiners.
  • A certified copy of the graduation certificate for the doctoral degree or a letter from the University stating that the candidate has fulfilled all requirements for graduation with a doctoral degree.
  • A committee appointed by the SAAB Council will adjudicate the nominations and the decision of the committee is final. The Bronze Medal will be officially awarded at an awards ceremony at the annual conference AGM dinner.
  • The deadline for nominations is 31 August.

PhD, MSc and Honours awards:

Must be within one year of completing the degree (i.e. for a student just having completed their Honours degree, and starting their MSc) There is no age limit.

A committee appointed by the Council of SAAB will adjudicate the nominations and the decision of the committee is final.


SAAB Award Recipients since 1972
Award recipients-historical(revised Jan. 2018)

SAAB Awards for 2018

Gold Medal Award: Prof A.E. (Braam)van Wyk

Prof. van Wyk has received a number of awards for his work including the SAAB silver medal (2002), the Havenga Prize for Life Sciences awarded by the South African Academy for Science and Arts (2010),  the Marloth Medal awarded by the Botanical Society of South Africa (2013),  the North West University Alumni Award of Excellence (2015),  and he has been the recipient of the Exceptional Achiever Awards conferred by the University of Pretoria six times. His contribution to plant taxonomy is evident from the fact that five plant species have his name as eponym.

Prof. van Wyk’s is a B3 rated (NRF) scientist  with over 400 publications. He has held the Louis Botha Chair in General Botany at the University of Pretoria since 1989 (for the past 28 years).  At the same time he has served as Curator of the H.G.W.J. Schweickerdt Herbarium at the University of Pretoria.

Prof. van Wyk has consistently challenged and inspired students at the University of Pretoria through his teaching.  Student feedback has always been exceptional, and several students have
commented that his courses were the best they ever attended at university, or that his courses inspired them to pursue a career in the broader field of plant sciences. He has graduated 30 MSc and 28 PhD students.

His influence on taxonomy and botany in South Africa is evident from the fact that his former students occupy a range of scientific positions at several institutions in South Africa and beyond (with a large number of them currently employed at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the major custodian of taxonomic material and data in South Africa).


Silver Medal Award:  Prof Sarel Cilliers

Prof Cilliers is widely regarded in urban ecological circles as the
“Father of Urban Ecology in South Africa” and has made a significant impact in the areas of urban landscape ecology and urban ecology. What is particularly important is that his research provides a rare African perspective to the international arena. In particular, a major contribution has been the development of methodologies and measures to quantify the urban-rural gradient. Prof Cilliers’ most important contribution is the establishment of an extensive international network and global data set of urban plants, which has led to the publication of two highly-cited scientific articles in highly rated international journals, Global Ecology and Biogeography and Proceedings Of the Royal Society.


Certificate of Merit Award:  Mrs. Gillian Condy

Gillian Condy is a freelance botanical artist. She illustrated Geophytic Pelargoniums published in 2001 and The Grass Aloes in the South African veld 2005 and was a major contributor to the biographical section in the book Peeling Back the Petals: SA botanical art; seven plates have been published in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine; two books for the African Union; since 1982 has illustrated 14 sets of postal stamps for the Botswana Postal Services and 4 for South Africa; 2 of her paintings are found on the Blue Train, a project she helped co-ordinated; Gunnera manicata appears in Volume one of the Highgrove Florilegium; four artworks have recently been accepted for the Transylvania Florilegium to be published in 2017 and 2018 and one of her work features in the Sydney Florilegium published in 2016.


Bronze Medal AwardDr Robyn F. Powell for her thesis titled:

“Systematics, diversification and ecology of the Conophytum-clade
(Ruschieae; Aizoaceae)”.


Best PhD:  D.MacAlister

Best MSc: B.D.Fibrich

Best Honours Student:  A. Siebritz

Best Young Botanist:  B.D.Fibrich

Best Poster Prize in Medicinal Plant Science/Ethnobotany: S.H.Chauke

Best Poster in Ecology: A.Chetty

Best Poster in Physiology/Biotechnology: LT Takawira

Best Poster in Systematics: KS Mashego

Best Lightening Award: E.Coetser


SAAB Awards for 2017

Gold Medal Award: Prof Marion Meyer

Prof Meyer played an important role in expanding the impact of Plant Sciences at the University of Pretoria and consolidating the department under one roof culminating in a magnificent new building for Plant Sciences in 2008.

He has published more than 100 papers in ISI-rated journals with his students and co-workers. His papers have been cited about 2560 times and according to Scopus he has an “H-score” of 30. He is listed on the Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators (ESI) in the top 1% of research output globally in the field of Pharmacology and Toxicology. He has17.5 citations per paper in Pharmacology and Toxicology, and 11.9 citations per paper in ‘all fields’.  His group has also registered five patents based on their research.

His research team has made a good contribution to medicinal plant science, not only in South Africa, but also internationally. They have identified many important novel compounds and developed bioassays not previously used in South Africa. The SAAB Council recognized this by awarding  him the Silver Medal in 2010.

Many of his postgraduate students came from disadvantaged backgrounds, but they did extremely well after receiving the necessary guidance. Seventeen MSc and fifteen PhD students have graduated under his supervision.

Under his leadership the hugely successful SAAB congress held in Pretoria jointly with the International Society for Ethnopharmacology proved to be a landmark in bringing the work done on medicinal plants in southern Africa under the attention of the international community.

During his term as President of the South African Association of Botanists his main achievement was to negotiate a very advantageous contract for the publishing of the South African Journal of Botany by Elsevier. As a result SAAB now receives annual royalties from Elsevier and the authors do not have to pay page charges.


Silver Medal Award:  Lesley Henderson

For her founding and running of the southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA),  since 1979. South Africa’s place as an international leader in the study of plant invasions is due in no small part to her work. She has also produced several field guides in particular the “Alien weeds and invasive plants” guide of 2001 which is still THE indispensable guide to invasive plants in South Africa.

Bronze Medal award: Dr Christopher Johnson for his PhD thesis titled:

Flowers with style: The role of pollinators in the origin and maintenance of Proteaceae diversity with a focus on the genus Leucospermum

Best PhD:  Jan Hendrik Keet & Robyn Powell

Best MSc: Dorcas Lekganyane

Best Honours Student:  Ryan Orton

Best Young Botanist:  Dorcas Lekganyane

Best Poster Prize in Plant Systematics/Plant Structure and Development: Courtney Long

Best Poster in Phytochemistry/Ethnobotany: Mustafa Esmaio

Best Poster in Ecology/Invasive Biology: Goina Arena

Best Poster in Plant Physiology/Biotechnology: Nina Esterhuysen

SAAB Awards for 2016

Gold Medal Award: Prof William Bond  for his extensive contributions to the teaching, research and advancement of Botany in South Africa. He is an A-rated NRF scientist and is respected for his contributions to ecology, biogeography and evolution of ecosystems and work with fire and herbivory under changing climate and edaphic conditions.

SAAB gold medal
Prof William bond (left); Prof Hannes van Staden (centre); Prof Kevin Balkwill (right)

Bronze Medal Award: Dr Rob Skelton for his PhD thesis titled: The role of hydraulic strategies in understanding the response of fynbos to drought.  University of Cape Town.  Supervisor – Dr Adam West

Best Young Scientist award:   R.Mathakutha, C. Steyn, B. Ripley, P. le Roux,M. Greve. Understanding the role of functional traits in plant invasions in the sub-Antarctic islands.

Best Oral Presentation by a PhD: Isabel Margaret  Hulley, B.E. Van Wyk, A.L. Schutte-Vlok. Quantitative medicinal ethnobotany of the Little Karoo:  which species are used for what ailments?

Best Oral Presentation by an MSc: R. Mathakutha, C. Steyn, B. Ripley, P. le Roux,M. Greve. Understanding the role of functional traits in plant invasions in the sub-Antarctic islands.

Best oral presentation by an Honours student: Monja Gerber and J.M. Berner. Differences in chlorophyll a fluorescence when sugarcane (Saccharum ) is exposed to elevated levels of CO2 and O3  in an OTC experiment.

Best Poster Over All Categories: Nelly Black, G.V. Cron, J. Harrison
Do pollinators limit plant reproduction in the high Drakensberg Alpine Centre?  Investigating the breeding system of Cineraria erodioides (Asteraceae)

SAAB Awards for 2015

Gold Medal Award: Prof Ben-Erik van WykIMG_6510

Prof Ben-Erik van Wyk is probably best known for the contributions he has made to ethnobotany through his work on the subjects of medicinal, poisonous and food plants particularly in African ethnobotany. Such titles as Medicinal Plants of South Africa, Peoples’ Plants and Mind-altering & Poisonous Plants of the World to name but a few have become popular titles found on many bookshelves. His original work with indigenous plants such as Artemisia afra, Harpagophytum procumbens, Sceletium tortuosum , Sutherlandia frutescens and others has contributed to society through the development of policy, capacity and the commercialization of southern African medicinal plants.

He has been recognised in South Africa through the awarding of the Havenga Prize for Biology from the South African Academy of Science and Arts (2009); The University of Johannesburg Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence (2009); a medal from the South African Academy of Science and Arts for contributions to ethnobotany (2011); Elected Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (2013) and awarded the National NRF Research Chair in Indigenous Plant Use in 2013. His chairmanship of the Indigenous Plant Use Forum (IPUF) since 1996 is testimony to the confidence and high regard the SA enthnobotany community has in him.

He has also made significant contributions to teaching and mentoring new generations of botanists, through the successful supervision of 14 PhD and 19 Masters students. In addition, he has acted as editor and referee for countless journals, thereby facilitating the publications of fellow botanists and ecologists.

Bronze Medal Award: Dr Mathew Adamu

Dr Adamu won this award for his PhD thesis titled:

“The potential role of antiparasitic and antimicrobial activity of Leucosidea sericea Eckl & Zeyh. (Rosaceae) extracts in ethnoveterinary medicine.”

The Award for the best oral presentation by a young scientist under 30 years of age

This year’s award was shared between:

(1) Andria Rautenbach for her talk based on her paper titled: Andria Rautenbach, T. Goldswain, T. Davis, A. Krygsman, A-M. Engelbrecht and N.P. Makunga: Investigating the potential of a traditional medicinal plant as an adjuvent remedy in the treatment of breast cancer; and

(2) Dunja Basic for her talk based on her paper titled: D. Basic, A.M. Muasya and S.B.M. Chimphango. Linking root traits to superior phosphorus uptake efficiency in Cape Fabales.

The Award for the Best Oral Presentation by a PhD

Won by Margaret Hulley for her talk emanating from her paper titled:

Isabel Margaret Hulley, B.-E. Van Wyk, A.L. Schutte-Vlok: Medicinal ethnobotany of the Little Karoo, South Africa.

The Award for the Best Oral Presentation by an MSc

This year’s award was shared between:

(1) Andria Rautenbach for her talk based on her paper titled: Andria Rautenbach, T. Goldswain, T. Davis, A. Krygsman, A-M. Engelbrecht and N.P. Makunga: Investigating the potential of a traditional medicinal plant as an adjuvent remedy in the treatment of breast cancer and;

(2) Dunja Basic for her talk based on her paper titled: D. Basic, A.M. Muasya and S.B.M. Chimphango. Linking root traits to superior phosphorus uptake efficiency in Cape Fabales.

Award for the Best Poster Over All Categories

Won by Emma Moster for her poster titled:

E. Mostert and C.I. Peter: Does “Multiple-bang” flowering enhance outcrossing in the deceptive Dietes grandiflora?

SAAB Awards for 2014

Bronze Junior Medal Award 2014 – Dr Alastair Potts

Dr. Alastair Potts recently obtained his PhD from the University of Cape Town. His thesis explored the evolutionary history of the Albany Subtropical Thicket using a combination of distribution modelling and phylogeography (investigating the distribution of genetic lineages across the landscape). Part of his research indicates that wind- and bird-dispersed plant species have populations largely isolated from one another within drainage basins along the deeply incised coastal lowlands of the south coast. In contrast, mega-herbivore (i.e. elephant and rhino) dispersed species form a single connected and extensive meta-population in the same area. The South African Association of Botanists recently awarded him the SAAB Junior Medal for the outstanding work presented in his PhD (this is available for download from: Alastair is currently a senior lecturer and an NRF Research Career Advancement Fellow at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. For more information regarding Alastair and his research you can visit

Gold Medal Award 2014 – Prof Richard Cowling

Richard Cowling’s name has become a household word in conservation ecology in SouthAfrica. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his untiring efforts to help safeguard over 100 000 ha of threatened natural habitat. The creation of Baviaanskloof nature reserve for example is due in large part to his initiative. Similarly, his research on the restoration of degraded subtropical thicket is guiding programmes in the state and private sectors to restore hundreds of thousands of hectares via the carbon market using spekboom (Portulacaria afra) as a carbon sequestrator. He has mentored some 26 PhD and 32 Masters students and published over 350 papers in peer-reviewed journals together with four books and 59 articles in the popular press. During his 35 year career as a professional botanist, he and his colleagues have conducted ground-breaking research in community ecology, endemism, fire ecology, ecophysiology, geomorphology, palaeoecology, phylogeography, population ecology and soil science much of which has then translated into applied outcomes in areas such as conservation planning, degradation ecology, ecological economics, ecosystem services, invasion biology, natural resource management, restoration ecology and social marketing.

Internationally he is listed on as among 250 most cited researchers in Ecology/Environment in the world. In 2004 he received the Distinguished Service Award of the Society for Conservation Biology (USA) for his cutting edge research on conservation planning. In 2008 he was elected as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) in recognition of his research on the diversity, evolution and conservation of the fynbos flora. His long-standing contribution to the ecology of Mediterranean-climate regions – in this case the fynbos biome – resulted in his appointment in 2011 by the International Society of Mediterranean Ecologists as a Distinguished MEDECOS Fellow. He was appointed a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America in 2012 for his contribution to ecological science.

The South African Association of Botanists salutes Richard Cowling for his outstanding contribution to South African botany and the environment.

SAAB Awards for 2013

Gold Medal Award 2013 – Prof Kobus Eloff

SAAB President, Nokwanda Makunga, presented Professor Kobus Eloff with the SAAB Gold Medal Award at the 2013 Annual Conference

Jacobus (Kobus) Nicolaas Eloff was born in Johannesburg in 1939 and was professor at Free State, Cape Town and Pretoria Universities, Executive Director National Botanic Gardens (Head Office Kirstenbosch) and Research Director National Botanical Institute. Currently, he is the research professor and leader of the interdisciplinary Phytomedicine Programme, Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria.

As a foundation member of SAAB and one of the first presidents, his main contributions to Botany were in changing the research culture of the National Botanical Gardens and managing the amalgamation with the Botanical Research Institute to form the National Botanical Institute. He also amalgamated the Journal of South African Botany with South African Journal of Botany and was Scientific Editor of these two Journals for 16 years.

He is the editor of 6 volumes Annals of Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. Presently, he is the editor of the ‘Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie’, member Editorial Panel South African Journal of Botany, Editor-in Chief International Journal for Phytomedicine. He has been invited to review manuscripts for 133 different scientific journals.

Amongst his greatest accolades, is the fact that he has supervised over 46 MSc and 31 PhD students. More than 170 papers, have been presented by Prof Eloff at international scientific conferences. His publication record consists of more than 190 peer evaluated scientific publications. He is rated by the NRF as a B-category internationally recognised researcher and has been appointed by European Unions agent Centre for the Development of Enterprise to develop Pan-African quality control standards and monographs for African Medicinal plants. He has had a leading role in the production of African Herbal Pharmacopoeia and is a member of many national and international professional societies, where he continues to function in a leadership role.

Amongst his awards is the recent Senior Medal for Botany (Gold medal) from South African Association of Botanists. In fact, Volume 65 of South African Journal of Botany was dedicated to him. He also was awarded the Havenga prize and the Gold medal of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns for discoveries with important practical applications in the medicinal plant field. Several patents and products have been licensed to Industrial Companies based on his group’s research.

In 2012, he received the National Science and Technology Forum Eskom Prize for capacity development and the Gold medal from Academy for Science of South Africa.

His most valued treasures, however, are his wife, two daughters and five grandchildren.

Silver Medal Award 2013 – Prof Alvaro Viljoen

Born in 1969, Pretoria South Africa. Completed a BSc, BSc Hons. (cum laude) and MSc (cum laude) in Botany at Stellenbosch University. In 1994 Alvaro commenced with a PhD at the University of Johannesburg on the chemotaxonomy of the genus Aloe (supervised by Prof Ben-Erik van Wyk) which was completed in 1999. In 1999 he was appointed lecturer in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the Department of Pharmacy, University of the Witwatersrand. In 2000 Alvaro established a Pharmacognosy research group in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology and supervised 25 postgraduate students in the group. Forty-five post-graduate students have graduated under his supervision since 2002. In 2002 he was promoted to senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand and in 2005 to Associate Professor at the same institution. In July 2005 Alvaro was appointed as a research fellow in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology (Pretoria). His research interest is the phytochemistry and biological activity of medicinal and aromatic plants indigenous to South Africa. He has authored / co-authored 160 peer reviewed publications and presented over 200 papers / posters at scientific meetings which includes 20 plenary lectures. Based on research contributions in the field of medicinal and aromatic plants he has been elected on to the editorial board of the Journal of Essential Oil Research (Francis & Taylor), he is an associate editor of Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Elsevier) and reviewing-editor for South African Journal of Botany (Elsevier). Alvaro has recently been elected on to the Advisory Board of the American Botanical Council.

Selected awards:

      • Best Young Scientist Award for the best presentation delivered by a young scientist (younger than 30) at the National Congress of the South African Association of Botanists (1995).
      • The Vice Chancellor’s Friedel Sellschop Award from the University of the Witwatersrand. A research grant awarded (3 years) to an outstanding young scientist (2001-2003).
      • An award from the South African Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences for the best peer-reviewed paper in the field of Pharmaceutics published in 2005 and again for a paper published in 2008. In 2006 he received an award from the same association for the best publication in the field of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
      • TUT’s Senior Researcher of the Year, awarded in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

SAAB Awards for 2012

Gold Medal Award 2012 – Prof Norman Pammenter

Prof Norman Pammenter has an interesting academic journey which led him to botany as he was trained in physics and chemistry but this led him to pursue a botanical direction as part of his postgraduate training. He obtained a PhD degree from the University of Leeds and he combined his love of botany, chemistry and physics and delved into the area of ecophysiology. He has an impressive international publication record which largely contributes to the area of desiccation tolerance and sensitivity with a particular focus on recalcitrant seeds. As his scientific interests are broad and multidirectional, he has established himself in the areas spanning from ecology through to biophysics, maximizing on his undergraduate training. His work has provided significant findings in the areas of seed biology through to the use of biotechnological tools for cryopreservation of unique and rare plant species. He focuses his attention also on the stress effects and epigenetic influences when plant tissues are subjected to cryo-treatments. He has trained a large school of postgraduate students who have become influential in a wide variety of plant related fields and other industries. Prof Pammenter deservedly received the Gold Medal for his unrelenting contribution to South African Botany. Many of his colleagues, past students have been inspired by Prof Pammenter’s dedication to the subject and he continues to play an active role in driving South African botanical research to new heights. Together with his partner, Prof Pat Berjak (who also holds a Gold Medal), they make a formidable team that has worked in close association as leading researchers, training many postgraduate students who have continued to have illustrious scientific careers such as our past President Jill Farrant (who holds an ‘A’ rating with the National Research Foundation of South Africa).

Silver Medal Award 2012 – Prof Mary Scholes

Prof Mary Scholes, a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand, is currently a full professor in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and serves as the Assistant Dean for Postgraduate Studies in the Faculty of Science. Her research activities focus on soil fertility and biogeochemistry in savannas, plantation forests and croplands. She serves as the vice-chairperson for the International Committee of Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security as well as the Secretary General for the Scientific Council on Problems in the Environment. These activities involve extensive collaborative research with a number of overseas and local institutes. Her publication record is extensive and she serves on many editorial boards. She has mentored over 60 postgraduate students and she teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the University. She is the recipient of a number of national and international awards including being elected as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry. She is married to Bob Scholes, a systems ecologist, and they have a 14 year old son. Mary likes to support her family as well as swimming and reading.

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