Breeding of sweet potatoes | Indigenous/traditional African vegetables | Potatoes | Genebanks | Biotechnology | Agro-processing | Commercial Vegetables

​Roelene Marx
Research Technician
Plant Breeding Division
Phone: +27 (0)12 808 8000

South Africa has a diverse variety of flora, which has captured the imagination, and attention of many botanists, horticulturists and flower breeders from countries such as Holland, USA, France and Israel.  Very often breeders come to South Africa to collect promising specimens for new product development programs in their home countries and as a result, many of the wild flowers of South Africa have found their way into the gardens of the world. 

These include the Namaqualand Daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) also called African daisies, geraniums, gazanias and gerberas. The South African bulbous plants in particular, consisting of approximately 4000 species, have especially attracted the attention of international breeders. 

Some of these species have little commercial value and are only of interest to the collector, while others are widely grown commercially for example, Freezia, Gladiolus, Babiana, Ixia, Tritonia, Schizostylis, Sparaxis, Ornithogalum and Zantedeschia. Unfortunately, many of these plants are being developed elsewhere with very little benefit flowing back to their country of origin.

The vision of the program is to create wealth through developing commercially usable products and cost effective production technology from the genetic resources of the South African Floral diversity, so that South Africa can derive direct socio-economic benefit from its floristic wealth. For the success of this program it is essential that genebank material of the crops is available for breeding, and that new cultivars are developed and released through the utilization of both conventional breeding techniques and innovative new technologies.

A comprehensive genepool of indigenous flower bulb species is conserved by ARC-VOP. This collection focuses on genera with potential for commercial exploitation, like Lachenalia, Ornithogalum, Cyrtanthus, Babiana and other genera.  The Lachenalia collection is the most complete collection in the world.  Accessions of the same species, collected at different localities, are conserved separately in order to retain genetic variation within the species and genus. Thus collection is characterized not only phenotypically but also on information regarding cytogenetics, fertility, ease of propagation susceptibility to virus and other pathogens etc.

The ARC has been involved in the breeding of flower bulbs for more than 40 years. During this time more than 30 flower bulb cultivars were released. Many of the indigenous flower bulb crops do have potential to be utilized commercially or are already being utilized. Recent breeding activities concentrated on Lachenalia as well as the use of irradiation to create new variation in members of the Hyacinthaceae family.

The wide and interesting variety in flower colour and shape, leaf colour and the fact that Lachenalia plants have a compact growth under suitable conditions, make them ideal for pot plant production. Dormant bulbs can be exported. A large number of hybrids were developed and these hybrids are superior to any of the species as many of them bear many, large, brightly coloured flowers. Unlike other well-known bulbous plants like gladiolus and freesia, commercial lachenalia varieties were not bred by foreign plant breeders. These beautiful plants are thus a true South African product.

Through the use of mutation technology researchers have also been able to develop a technique for the induction of mutations in the Hyacinthaceae family. Several mutants were identified and two lines resulting from this research were registered with Plant Breeder's Rights.



KLEYNHANS, R. 2006. Lachenalia, spp. In Flower Breeding & Genetics:  Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for the 21st Century, pp 491-516. Ed.  N.O. Anderson. Springer.

VAIRA A.M., KLEYNHANS R. & HAMMOND J., 2007. First report of Freesia sneak virus infecting Lachenalia cultivars in South Africa. Plant Disease, 91: 107.

STRYDOM, A., KLEYHANS, R. &  SPIES, J.J. 2007. Chromosome studies in African Plants 20: Karyotypes of some Cyrtanthus species. Bothalia 37: 105-108.

Spies JJ, Spies P, Reinecke SMC, Kleynhans R, Duncan CD, Edwards TJ (2008) Lachenalia. In Marhold K (ed) IAPT/IOPB chromosome data 5. Taxon 57:212--213

Spies JJ, Spies P, Reinecke SMC, Kleynhans R, Minnaar A, du Preez JL (2009) Lachenalia. In Marhold K (ed) IAPT/IOPB chromosome data. Taxon 58: 1288-1289

KLEYNHANS R. 2008. Development of a new flower crop: Lessons learnt. Nufarmer and African Entrepreneur, 1/3/2008, 12: 7.

KLEYNHANS, R. 2007. Commercialization of Lachenalia: Lessons Learnt. 5th Indigenous Vegetables Meeting (invited speaker).

KLEYNHANS, R., SPIES, P. & SPIES, J.J. 2007. Crossability in the genus Lachenalia. Poster at the VI International symposium on New floriculture Crops, Madeira, Portugal 11-15 June 2007

KLEYNHANS, R., NIEDERWIESER, J.G. & LOUW, E. 2007. Temperature requirements for good quality Lachenalia pot plants. Poster at the VI International symposium on New floriculture Crops, Madeira, Portugal 11-15 June 2007

KLEYNHANS, R. 2007. Lessons learnt from the development of an indigenous flower. IPUF conference, 2-5 July 2007

KLEYNHANS, R. 2008. Cross-ability linked to phylogenetic relationships in the genus Lachenalia, Xth conference of the South African Genetic Society 27-29 March 2008.

KLEYNHANS, R. 2008. Potential new lines in the Hyacinthaceae. Xth International Symposium on Flower Bulbs and Herbaceous Perennials. Lisse, Netherlands. April 20-24, 2008.

SPIES, P, SPIES, JJ & KLEYNHANS, R. 2008. Chromosomal evolution in the genus Lachenalia. 4th International Conference on the comparative biology of the monocotyledons, Copenhagen, Denemark, 11-15 Aug 2008

Kleynhans, R., Niederwieser, J.G. and Louw, E. 2009. TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS FOR GOOD QUALITY LACHENALIA POT PLANTS. Acta Hort.  813:641-648

Kleynhans, R., Spies, J.J. and Spies, P. 2009. CROSS-ABILITY IN THE GENUS LACHENALIA. Acta Hort.  813:385-392

Kleynhans, R. 2009. Back to basics for new crop development. Acta Hort 836:185-191

Kleynhans, R 2009. Back to basics for new crop development. Key note lecture at the International Eucarpia (Section Ornamental) symposium in Leiden Netherlands (31 Aug -5 Sept 2009)

Kleynhans, R. 2011. POTENTIAL NEW LINES IN THE HYACINTHACEAE. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 886:139-145

Kleynhans, R. 2011 Selection of new Lachenalia cultivars. IPUF conference from 4-7 Jul 2011 at St Lucia, KZN

Pienaar, R.C., Kleynhans, R. New Ornithogalum lines as potential cut flowers presented at the 30th Congress of the South African Society of Agricultural Technologist, Salt Rock Hotel, KZN, 18-21 September 2012

Spies, P., Kleynhans, R., Grobler, J.P. and Spies, J.J. 2012. The evolution of ploidy in the genus Lachenalia presented at a joint conference: South African Genetics & Bioinformatics Society Conference, Stellenbosch, 10–12 September 2012

SPIES J.J., SPIES, P & KLEYNHANS, R. 2011 Basic chromosome numbers in the genus Lachenalia (Hyacinthaceae). Philosophical Transactions in Genetics 1:67-79

KLEYNHANS, R. & SPIES J.J.  2011. Requirement for the development and breeding of new flower bulb crops Philosophical Transactions in Genetics 1:80-101

KLEYNHANS, R., SPIES, P. & SPIES, J.J. 2012. Cytogenetic and phylogenetic review of the genus Lachenalia. Floriculture and Ornamental Biotechnolgy 6 (special issue1), 88-115 (Invited review)

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