HYBRID EVENT: You can participate in person at Rome, Italy or Virtually from your home or work.
September 16-18, 2024 | Rome, Italy
GPMB 2021

Helena du Plessis

Helena du Plessis, Speaker at Plant Events
University of Limpopo, South Africa
Title : Characterization of Hibiscus coddii subsp. barnardii, an endemic South African species with ornamental potential


South Africa is known globally for its rich plant biodiversity and various centres of endemism, of which the Sekhukhuneland Centre of Plant Endemism (SCPE) is one. This unique floristic region is located on the ultramafic and mafic rocks of the Rustenburg Layered Suite of the Bushveld Igneous Complex. Hibiscus coddii subsp. barnardii is a particularly attractive endemic plant species growing only on the rocky outcrops of this region. This study provides information on the plant characteristics, growth conditions in its natural habitat and other plant species most commonly found in association with this endemic. The plant is a branched perennial herb with hairy leaves that produces attractive red flowers during the summer season and small, hairy seeds after pollination. These sun-loving plants occur mostly in the dry northern bushveld part of the SCPE where they are restricted to dark-colored harzburgite, pyroxenite and norite rock ridges and can withstand periods of drought. These traits make it an ideal plant for the dry South African conditions and other areas of minimal rainfall, where water-wise gardening is becoming more popular and necessary. In nature, H. coddii subsp. barnardii plants were found to grow in soils with high levels of Mg, Fe, Ca, Ni and Cr, although in this study, they were also grown as pot plants or small shrubs in an outside garden under diverse environmental- and soil conditions. This shows that the wild H. coddii subsp. barnardii species can be cultivated and has the potential to be introduced to the horticulture market as a new ornamental species due to its striking appearance and water-wise properties. The research contributed further to the establishment of suitable protocols for the ex situ propagation and conservation of this valuable plant.


Helena du Plessis completed her undergraduate- and MSc study at the University of Pretoria. She has been affiliated with the University of Limpopo since 1996 and was involved with management of various academic and administrative activities and lecturing to under- and postgraduate students in mycology, ethnobotany and plant physiology fields. She also has experience in supervision of postgraduate students in these fields. Her doctoral research was on indigenous plants of Limpopo province, South Africa with possible horticulture potential under the supervision of Prof RV Nikolova. She received her PhD degree from the University of Limpopo in 2020 with three articles stemming from this research.