DNA Bank at Kirstenbosch

The Leslie Hill Molecular Systematics Laboratory at Kirstenbosch, in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have received funding from the UK Darwin Initiative to establish a 'DNA bank' that will house genetic material of South African plants.


  • Archive in a DNA bank the genetic material from at least one species of all ca. 2200 South African flowering plant genera
  • Allow researchers to have access to plant DNA extracts to be used in applied and fundamental science
  • Through collaboration with RBG Kew's CBD Unit, to implement the necessary legal agreements for material transfer and benefit sharing of these genetic resources
  • Train South African researchers and students in high-profile biotechnologies
  • Produce a phylogenetic 'tree of life' of South African plant genera and identify areas of endemicity and high priority for conservation


Essentially the DNA bank is simply a -80ºC freezer used to store extracts of DNA. The DNA extraction protocol typically yields about 1.2ml of total genomic DNA (including nuclear, mitochondrial and plastid DNA), that is stored in 1.5ml tubes. Each accession has a corresponding herbarium voucher so that the authenticity of each sample can be checked at a later date if necessary.

The Darwin Initiative will provide funding for a three-year period from June 2003 during which the facility will aim to house at least one representative from each genus of plants indigenous to South Africa. After the initial three years the DNA bank will continue to be managed by the NBI as a national resource for plant genetic material.


Download .pdf file of genera collected by Septembert 2004

Download Progress Report September 2004


  • THE DARWIN INITIATIVE is administered by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the UK. In partnership with developing countries it is the objective of the DI to fund projects where a UK based institution will better enable the developing country to adhere to and implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (*link to DI webpage*)

  • THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW currently houses the world's largest and most comprehensive DNA bank. The bank currently holds over 12 000 DNAs representative of all plant families. The expertise that RBG Kew has on DNA extraction, storage, and legal aspects relating to material transfer agreements (MTAs) will assist the NBI enormously in this venture to establish a similar facility in South Africa. (*link to RBG Kew webpage*)


SA Project Team Members:

  • Gail Reeves (Head of Molecular Systematics, NBI Cape Town): South African project leader
  • Gideon Smith (Director of Research, NBI Pretoria): South African project co-leader
  • Ferozah Conrad (Molecular systematist, NBI Cape Town): South African project leader
  • Kholiwe Balele: DNA bank manager
  • John Manning (Compton Herbarium, NBI Cape Town): plant collection and taxonomic identification
  • Maureen Wolfson (Deputy Director of Research, NBI Pretoria): liaison on access and benefit sharing
  • Annelise Le Roux (Scientific Services, Western Cape Nature Conservation): liaison on policy and implementation issues
  • Michelle Van der Bank (Rand Afrikaans University): student supervisor
  • Terry Hedderson (University of Cape Town): student supervisor
  • Leanne Dreyer (University of Stellenbosch): student supervisor


UK Project Team Members:

  • Vincent Savolainen (Plant molecular systematist, RBG Kew): UK project leader
  • Mark Chase (Head Molecular Systematics, RBG Kew): UK project co-leader
  • Martyn Powell (Molecular systematist, RBG Kew): DNA sequencing expert
  • Kate Davis (CBD Unit, RBG Kew): CBD implementation officer
  • China Williams (CBD Unit, RBG Kew): CBD education officer
  • E Kapino & L Csiba (Jodrell Laboratory, RBG Kew): current DNA bank managers
  • Julie Hawkins (Reading University): student supervisor

For more information please contact: Gail Reeves
Tel: 021 7998786


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