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Undergraduate Programme            



BSc Plant Science degree

The Department of Plant Science offers the following undergraduate plant science modules:

First year level

BOT 161 Plant Biology

Course content: Basic plant structure and function, introductory plant taxonomy and plant systematics, principles of plant molecular biology and biotechnology, adaptation of plants to stress, medicinal compounds from plants, basic principles of plant ecology, and their application in natural resource management and biodiversity.


Second year level

BOT 251 South African Flora and Vegetation

Course content: Origin and affinity of South African flora and vegetation types, principles of plant geography, plant diversity in southern Africa, characteristics, ecology, environments and vegetation of southern African biomes, centra of plant endemism, rare and threatened plant species, red data lists, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management, conservation status of southern African vegetation types.


BOT 261 Plant Physiology and Biotechnology

Course content: Nitrogen metabolism in plants, nitrogen fixation in agriculture, plant secondary metabolism and natural products, photosynthesis and carbohydrate metabolism in the plants, applications in solar energy, plant growth regulation and the Green Revolution, plant responses to the environment, developing drought tolerant and disease-resistant plants.

Third year level

BOT 356 Plant Ecophysiology

The emphasis is on the efficiency of the mechanisms whereby C3-, C4- en CAM-plants bind CO2 and how it is impacted upon by environmental factors. The mechanisms and factors which determine the respiratory conversion of carbon skeletons and how production is affected thereby will be discussed. Insight into the ecological distribution and manipulation of plants for increased production is gained by discussing the internal mechanisms whereby carbon allocation, hormone production, growth, flowering and fruitset are influenced by external factors. To understand the functioning of plants in diverse environments, the relevant structural properties of plants and the impact of soil composition and water flow in the soil-plant-air continuum and long distance transport of assimilates will be discussed. Various important techniques will be used in the practicals to investigate aspects such as water-use efficiency photosynthesis and respiration of plants.


BOT 358 Plant Ecology

Course content: A description of the environment of plants. Fundamentals of plant population biology, life tables, plant breeding systems and pollination, population dynamics, life history strategies, intraspecific competition, interspecific competition and co-existence. Theory of plant community concepts, vegetation change over space and time, floristic and structural composition, plant diversity, landscape ecology, climate change. Data processing techniques, ecological interpretation and description of plant communities. Vegetation and environmental management.


BOT 365 Phytomedicine

The module will include a review on the discovery and use of plant medicines and phyto-therapeutically important molecules obtained from plants. Certain aspects of natural product chemistry i.e. the biosynthesis ecological role and toxicity of the three main classes of secondary compounds; terpenoids, phenolics, and alkaloids are discussed. An introduction to the principles and applications of metabolomics are presented. The role of these natural products in defence against micro-organisms and herbivores is reviewed during the module. The basics of alternative medicines such as homeopathy, ayurvedic medicine, acupuncture etc. are also discussed. Practical sessions on drug discovery approaches using chromato-graphic techniques for phytochemical analysis of secondary metabolites such as tannins, alkaloids, sterols and saponins are conducted. Bioassays on micro-organisms are also done during the practical sessions in order to develop the skills for the potential discovery of new antibiotics. Visits to several pharmaceutical laboratories are arranged.


BOT 366 Plant Diversity

Course content: Basic principles and methods of plant classification. Sources of plant variation. Modern methods to ascertain evolutionary relationships among plants. The extent and significance of vascular plant diversity. General structural, and biological characteristics of evolutionary and ecologically important plant groups. Botanical nomenclature.  Plant identification in practice; identification methods, keys, herbaria and botanical gardens. Diagnostic characters for the field identification of trees, wild flowers and grasses. Family recognition of southern African plants. Available literature for plant identification. Methods to conduct floristic surveys. Nature and significance of voucher specimens.


BTC 361 Plant Genetics and Crop Biotechnology

Course content: Plant genetics and genomics: gene control in plants, epigenetics, co-suppression, forward and reverse genetics, structural and functional genomics. Plant development: signal perception, cell death, control of cell division. Plant-environment interactions. Crop genetic modification: food security, GMO regulation, plant transformation, whole-chromosome transformation, synthetic biology, homologous recombination. Crop molecular markers: marker types, genotyping, QTL mapping, marker-assisted breeding. Future of crop biotechnology: applications of genomics, biopharming, genetical genomics and systems biology.


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Last edited by Peter le RouxEdit