Micropropagation of rare and threatened medicinal plant species of South Africa – for propagation and preservation: an overview

V. Reddy
The use of in vitro techniques in the propagation and preservation of endangered plants for conservation activities has gained momentum worldwide in response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GPSC). Although South Africa is commited to plant biodiversity conservation and successful academic research activities highlighting the relevance of plant biotechnology to plant conservation of indigenous plants, there are not many tissue culture facilities in the country that are active in conservation of indigenous plant species. There are a number of well-established Tissue Culture laboratories in the country, however these are confined to academic and agricultural research institutes and the commercial plant propagation industry. The Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries (PLC) Department manage and maintain all parks, leisure and cemeteries facilities and services that are accessable to all citizens of the eThekwini Municipal Area (EMA). It is in this context, the Tissue Culture Section is responsible for the provision of plant material through the process of micropropagation for the horticultural services within the PLC department. One of the horticultural services of the PLC department is the conservation of natural resources within the EMA, it is for this service, indigenous plants are propagated at the Tissue Culture facility. The Tissue Culture Section (of the Production and Display Division; Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries Department, eThekwini Municipality) in Durban, South Africa propagates a number of plant species indigenous to the east coast of KwaZulu Natal. Some of the species propagated at the facility are under threat in their natural habitat due to over harvesting for traditional medicinal practices. The indigenous species selected for in vitro propagation include those species that display poor rooting of cuttings, and known to produce low seed numbers and have relatively short seeding seasons. Species propagated include those that are listed as critically endangered and as vulnerable in the Red List of Threatend plant species. The in vitro propagation of indigenous orchid species have many functions. An overview of some of the successful conservation related projects of the tissue culture facility and some of the challenges of managing a tissue culture facility within a municipal nursery context and practical solutions to these challenges are included.
Reddy, V. 2017. Micropropagation of rare and threatened medicinal plant species of South Africa – for propagation and preservation: an overview. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 1155:619-624
biodiversity, conservation, endangered species, indigenous plant species, in vitro propagation

Acta Horticulturae