Meeting horticulturalist Chris Dalzell and botanist Elsa Pooley

Durban Botanic Gardens, South Africa, February 28, 2018

Thanks to Chris Danzell, we enjoyed an interesting day learning about South Australian botany.


 Christopher Dalzell


About Chris Dalzell

Chris has for decades been a household name in Durban due to his position as Curator of Durban Botanic Gardens from 1990 – 2010. A career that has spanned 30 years in the Botanic Gardens world has taken Chris to over 62 countries where he has lectured, fundraised and plant sourced allowing Durban Botanic Gardens to grow as a world class Botanic Gardens under his Curatorship. Chris has worked and studied in some of the most famous gardens in the world including Longwood Gardens in the USA and was part of the team that built the new $1 Billion Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.


Today, Chris runs a very successful Landscape consulting business that includes landscaping, consulting, plant broking, Botanical tours, lecturing and writing.


After qualifying as a horticulturist in 1988 Chris was awarded a scholarship to study at the famous Longwood Gardens in the USA.  It was at this time that Chris started his international networking that would introduce him to the conservation of plants within Botanical Gardens. In 1990 returned to Durban and joined the Durban Botanic Gardens, in charge of special collections. In 1994 Chris was appointed curator of the Durban Botanic Gardens, the position he held till 2010. Over the next 20 years Chris travelled to over 62 countries lecturing, plant sourcing and fundraising for the Durban Botanic Gardens.  In 1994 Chris started the Friends of the Durban Botanic Gardens and over the next 16 years raised over R40 million for the gardens. Chris initiated the exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show from 2007 to 2009 and was awarded two silver gilts and one gold medal. In 2010, Chris left the Durban Botanic Gardens for Singapore as Assistant Director of development for the new $1 billion Gardens by the Bay. Over the next two and a half years Chris travelled extensively sourcing plants for Gardens by the Bay and was responsible for the design and implementation of the conservancies.

  • Served as president of the Natal Orchid society on two occasions and studied to become an orchid judge
  • Chairman of the Friends of the Botanic Gardens and was responsible for initiating the popular Music at the Lake concert series
  • Initiated the African Botanic Gardens Network that linked all the gardens in Africa under one organization and hosted the first African Botanic Gardens Conference in 1992 in Durban
  • Chairman of the 2007 World Botanic Gardens Education Conference that was held at Durban Botanic Gardens
  • Chris lives in Kloof where he now runs his own landscaping consulting business. He enjoys travelling, golf, hiking and plant sourcing.



Elsa Pooley was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2008. She won the prestigious Marloth Medal of the Botanical Society of South Africa (2004), and was awarded the Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Contribution to Botany by the SA Association of Botanists in 1999. She was the KZN Wildlife and Environment Society’s Conservationist of the Year in 1996.


Elsa grew up in Johannesburg, Harare and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In 1965 she married conservationist and crocodile ecologist Tony Pooley. They had three sons, Simon, Justin and Thomas. She lived in game reserves of Zululand for 20 years making an extensive collection of the plants of the region, and publishing research papers on vegetation mapping and traditional plant use by local people. The family moved to Clansthal on the KZN South Coast and Elsa began work on her field guides.


  • The Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei (1993)
  • A Field Guide to Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region (1998)
  •  Mountain Flowers: A Field Guide to the Flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho (2003)
  • Forest Plants, in the forest and in the garden (2006)
  • Elsa contributed the plant text and illustrations to the field guide Wildlife in Southern Africa (Struik Random House)
  • Trees of Southern Africa (Southern, 1998)
  • Wild Flowers, Grasses, Sedges, Ferns & Fungi of Southern Africa (Southern, 1998)
  • SASOL First Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa (Struik, 1997).
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