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Higher Plant Systematics Research

Our research interests are aspects of the recognizing, recording and stewarding plant biodiversity.

Oncoba spinosa flower with chafer beetles



Systematics (which includes taxonomy) involves the study of the range of kinds of organisms (diversity), their identification, naming, classification, and evolution, and of variation in organisms and the causes and consequences of this variation.

Our research interests are aspects of the recognising, recording and stewarding plant biodiversity. 

The results of our research are thus of general importance in charting the botanical biodiversity of southern Africa and also have particular applications, such as the search for serpentine-endemic species suitable for rehabilitation of mine dumps and the biorecovery of metals from mine wastes and contaminated areas.

Public courses in plant identification help to increase awareness of our rich flora and the need to conserve these valuable resources. The herbarium is involved in collaboration at various levels with systematists and organisations around the globe.

Staff interested in this area of research:

  • Professor Kevin Balkwill
  • Professor Glynis Goodman
  • Mr Donald McCallum
  • Dr Rene Reddy


Much of the research is based in the C.E. Moss Herbarium. The herbarium has facilities for the storage and safe keeping of specimens and a library of taxonomic literature. Research optical microscopes, a Zeiss Stereo Discovery V12 and a Zeiss Imager M2 are housed in the facility. 

The systematics lab is equiped to extract, amplify and separate DNA. DNA sequencing is a powerful tool for elucidating relationships amoung organisms.