Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in South Africa
The aim of the Useful Plants Project in the Republic of South Africa is to enhance the ex situ conservation of plants that are beneficial to human wellbeing.
Project team collecting seeds and herbarium specimens in the Lowveld region (Mpumalanga Province)
The project is working closely with local communities in the Lowveld region (Mpumalanga Province) to increase their ability to store and propagate useful species.
The main objectives of the project in South Africa are to:
- identify which species are most useful to local communities
- collect and conserve seeds from these useful plants
- propagate useful species and support their in situ conservation
Several community groups from the Lowveld region (Mpumalanga Province) have been selected to be involved in the project.
Activities in the Republic of South Africa
The project team at the Lowveld National Botanical Garden in Nelspruit have worked with local people, reviewed published literature and surveyed existing nurseries to identify the most useful species.
Seeds are being collected in the Mpumalanga Province, processed by the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP) Cape Town team and stored at the National Plant Genetic Resources Centre in Roodeplaat near Pretoria. To ensure long term conservation duplicates are being stored in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.
The propagation of useful species is carried out at the Lowveld National Botanical Garden, where training in propagation techniques will be delivered to local community groups. A greenhouse to propagate the selected useful species has been built inside the Lowveld National Botanical Garden, where a medicinal plant section has been created for display and education purposes.
DNA samples are sent to the Leslie Hill Molecular Systematics Laboratory at the Kirstenbosch Research Centre in Cape Town for species profiling.
The team at the Lowveld National Botanical Garden has been receiving training in seed collecting and support in plant identification from the MSBP team based at the National Botanical Garden in Pretoria.
Project partners and collaborators
The main collaborator in South Africa is the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The main project team is based at the Lowveld National Botanical Garden in Nelspruit, in the Mpumalanga province.
The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency in Nelspruit provides support and advice to the team, using their experience working on community projects in the region.