Monitoring plant health in botanic gardens and arboreta across South Africa 2019-06-25
Recently, Drs Mesfin Gossa and Trudy Paap assessed plant health in eight gardens across South Africa, including Arderne Gardens, Durban Botanic Garden, Pretoria National Zoological Garden, and Harold Porter, Kirstenbosch, KwaZulu-Natal, Pretoria and Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens. This was conducted as part of Dr Gossa’s postdoctoral research project funded by SANBI: Biological Invasions Directorate (SANBI BID) for the period January 2019 to December 2020. The project focuses on monitoring tree health in sentinel sites such as botanical gardens and arboreta and is overseen by a team of senior scientists comprising Profs Mike Wingfield, Bernard Slippers, Brett Hurley and Dr Trudy Paap from Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and Prof John Wilson from SANBI/Stellenbosch University. This is a continuation of a very valuable project through which new introductions of invasive forest pests such as the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) and its symbiotic fungus Fusarium euwalliaceae were detected. During the recent surveys many plant health issues were detected in the gardens, including gall forming insects and mites, wood borers (ambrosia, bark and cerambecid beetles), sucking insects (scales, aphids, mealybugs and thrips), devastating weevil damage on aloes and cycads, Ganoderma, Phytophthora and Armillaria root rot and canker diseases. Samples were collected from the gardens and taken to FABI for laboratory analysis and identification. This project will continue to investigate and unravel plant health issues in botanic gardens and arboreta across the country, while also endeavoring to build the capacity of the garden staff in monitoring, detection, and management of plant pests and diseases. The research team takes this opportunity to thank SANBI for the funding, and administrators of SANBI BID and horticulturalists, arborists and curators of the various gardens for their unreserved support.