South Africa is world renowned for its biodiversity and many have recognized that its botanical wealth presents with unique opportunities for conservation and commercialization which can drive economic development. It is a country with many varied indigenous knowledge systems. Having developed within a hyper-diverse floral region, the various practices for utilization of medicinal plants have led to a wide range of ethnic pharmacopeias which are uniquely South African in character. There is certainly enormous scope for this indigenous knowledge combined with the many medicinal plants to contribute both to human health at both locally and at the global level. Through a historical account, this talk will relate how the different cultural practices of the exploitation of plants for health likely arose in southern Africa. Thereafter, by using various examples of indigenous and endemic plant species, Dr. Makunga will explore how biotechnologies are integral to our better understanding of these plants and their unique phytochemistry. Finally, the ways in which such approaches can add a new value to traditional plant knowledge and its custodians will be discussed.

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Co-organized by Juliana Medeiros, Holden Arboretum and Maya Allen, University of New Mexico

This lecture series will take place entirely online, with a new speaker on the second Wednesday of the month from October 2020 to September 2021. Our Scientist Lecture Series this year was inspired by Black Botanists Week, a Twitter campaign that took place in July 2020, “to promote, encourage, create a safe space for, and find more Black people who love plants.” This campaign went viral, reaching thousands of viewers and attracting Black Botanists from around the globe. The participants received an outpouring of support and requests for collaboration through their newly created #BlackBotanistsWeek Twitter account and website . Media coverage of this movement included such outlets as WNYC news, Cape Talk Radio, Newzroom Afrika and The Daily Item. The organizing committee strives to leverage these collaborations to fund a Black Botanists Week Scholarship to support underrepresented groups in pursuing botanical fields.