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The effect of geography, cultivation and harvest technique on the umckalin concentration and growth of pelargonium sidoides (Geraniaceae)

by White, A.G.

Abstract (Summary)
Pelargonium sidoides DC. (Geraniaceae) root extracts are used in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa as a traditional medicine for the treatment of respiratory tract and gastro-intestinal infections. Ethanolic extracts are used globally as herbal treatments for bronchitis, asthma and as an immune system booster. Despite documented exploitation of wild populations by illegal harvesters, this species has not been awarded a protected status. The high level of harvest in the years preceding this study prompted this investigation of the prospects for sustainable root harvest through wild harvest and greenhouse cultivation. A novel method was developed for the purification of umckalin, a bioactive constituent in root extracts, such that the root umckalin concentrations of wild and cultivated plants could be quantified by HPLC. As part of the cultivation experiments, the concentration of umckalin in roots was measured for plants across part of the species’ distribution range in the Eastern Cape Province. This survey revealed that root umckalin concentrations were inversely related to the average annual rainfall of the collection site (r² = 0.94, p = 0.007) and directly related to soil pH (r² = 0.97, p = 0.002). Thus, the possibility of inducing high umckalin concentrations in greenhouse-cultivated plants was investigated by subjecting plants to rapid and prolonged water stress treatments. Two leaf applied hormone treatments (cytokinin and gibberellin) and a root competition treatment with a fast growing annual (Conyza albida) were also investigated based on the potential function of umckalin in P. sidoides plants. These five treatments did not significantly affect root umckalin concentrations compared to well-watered controls. The results of further experiments suggested that umckalin production may have been influenced by the geographical origin and genetics of plants rather than environmental variation. Following wild harvest experiments, the regrowth of replanted shoots from which a standard proportion of the root was harvested showed that water availability affected shoot survival but not root regrowth rate. Regrowth rates were low, questioning the viability of wild harvest. In contrast, greenhouse cultivated plants showed ca. six times greater growth rates, supporting the cultivation of roots to supply future market demand.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:botany

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2007

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