The medicinal plant genebank at ARC-VOP currently maintains 66 species of medicinal plants some of which are maintained as seed and others as live plants maintained ex situ. These include highly sought after species such as Artemisia (Artemisia annua, A. afra), African ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus), African potato (Hypoxis hemerocallidea), cancer bush (Sutherlandia frutescens), Rabassam (Pelargonium sidoides) and blue squill (Merwilla plumbea). Majority of these medicinal species are harvested unsustainably from the wild populations leading to a rapid decline in their populations or threatened state of some species – a necessitating factor for their urgent conservation.
The genebank accessions are directly linked to the medicinal projects at the institute and serve as a source of material for multiplication of cuttings and seedlings for research purposes. The ARC has become recognised as the cultivation expert with regard to research on medicinal plants, but continued research and community support outputs would not be possible without the maintenance and expansion of materials in the genebank. The ARC is therefore in a position to play a leading role in the commercialization of these crops in South Africa. The availability of sustainable medicinal plant materials through cultivation using highly superior accessions in the genebank (following characterisation) will lead to improved competitiveness of the industries at both local and international levels, resulting in development of sustainable enterprises, job creation, income generation, increased nutritious and medicinal food security and improved livelihoods.
Some medicinal plants forming part of the ARC-VOP collection
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