South Africa, as a megadiverse country (±21 700 vascular plants, 4800 vertebrates and 68 900 invertebrates described), is presently engaged with an extended, modified Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). The country is fortunate in having a strong tradition of systematics research and, inter alia, houses several million preserved plant specimens (±1 million databased and georeferenced), allowing taxonomists and conservationists to track both the occurrence and distribution of indigenous and naturalized plant species. These rich local resources have been extensively drawn upon to deliver, with varying degrees of success, the 16 outcome-oriented GSPC 2010 Targets. The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA, 2004), the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) and the National Biodiversity Framework (NBF) have provided a robust legislative, enabling and policy framework for making operational and advancing GSPC-related efforts. However, within an emerging economy, the conservation of biodiversity has competed for government resources with housing, sanitation, primary education, basic health care and crime prevention, delivery of which translates to the currency of politicians: votes. A key challenge identified by local (and global) biodiversity scientists for the current GSPC phase is broad-scale advocacy, communicating the changing state of nature, and the inter-relatedness of biodiversity and human well-being. The nature of meeting this challenge is explored. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 166, 301–309.