Plant Destroyers

The Research



Plant pathogens are microscopic organisms that make plants sick. These organisms are important components of ecosystems because they help maintain a natural balance within the plant communities. However, they can also cause substantial problems when introduced into new areas, environments or plant communities. You can help detect and monitor the emergence of diseases in the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) by contacting us or reporting your observations of unhealthy plants.

In this project, we set out to reveal the diversity of a group of plant pathogens called Phytophthora in the GCFR. Phytophthora species are important plant pathogens globally because of their economic and ecological impacts. For example, previous research has determined that Phytophthora cinnamomi was introduced to South Africa and is the cause of protea root rot and the decline of important species such as the silver tree.

We initiated this project in 2016 and have completed much of what we set out to accomplish. However, we would still like to hear from you if you are interested in contributing or if you would like our help with diagnostics. Please check out our other projects as well if you are interested in contributing to research or advancing knowledge to protect the Greater Cape Floristic Region.

Project Progress

Methods to Contribute

Many citizens have submitted samples to our lab for diagnostics. Their contributions are invaluable because they are often from areas that we would not be able to visit ourselves. We invite sample submissions to determine if Phytophthora is involved in your observations. Contact us if you would like to know if Phytophthora could be affecting your plants.

Has an unhealthy plant caught your attention recently? You can share your observations here so that we can watch out for new occurrences of insect pests and plant diseases! We use the iNaturalist application to collect observations. Reports can be made with smart phones or any device connected to the internet.

Many citizens have invited us to collect samples from their home gardens. If you are concerned about the health of plants in your garden, please contact us. We will then do our best to arrange to visit, collect a sample, or provide recommendations. 

We have organised workshops with professional staff at botanical gardens, reserve managers at nature reserves, and park rangers in national parks. Together these citizens have contributed to our understanding of the threats posed by Phytophthora species to indigenous flora in these systems.

We have been able to lead many activities with youth thanks to support from the American Phytopathological Society, the British Society for Plant Pathology, the Stellenbosch University Faculty of AgriScience Social Impact Grant, and a crowdfunding campaign on http://experiment.com. If you are interested in organising an activity together, please contact us.

Want to contribute?

Contact us to get involved! Anyone is welcome to participate.