Finding flowers

By Dylan Beukes

I recently conducted my field work at various sites across the Drakensberg mountain range to collect Rhodohypoxis baurii var. platypetala specimens.









I am currently working on my MSc dissertation under the supervision of Dr Kelsey Glennon and Prof. Sally Archibald and was lucky enough to get to see a large portion of the Drakensberg mountains while hunting for populations of platypetala to sample for my research. I was accompanied by Courtney Gardiner, a fellow MSc student in the AP&ES department who is carrying out research on flower colour on a different variety of the same species.









These near-endemic geophytic herbs are distributed along much of the mountain range and grow among grasses and rocks. They are often exposed to grazing due to their proximity to grasses and my research is investigating the effect grazing may have on their morphology and population genetics. While finding and accessing grazed populations was challenging, I was eventually able to sample 4 grazed sites and 4 ungrazed sites. Morphological data was captured for plants at each site and samples were taken for genetic analysis which will be carried out during 2018. Together, the morphological and genetic data will provide insight as to whether the populations exposed to grazing are at risk or not.

Whole plants were also collected at each site for a common-garden experiment and they got to be the very first plants to ‘live’ in the new AP&ES greenhouse at Wits. These plants will provide seeds and material for genetic studies for future students.

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