Highlights from Plant Science students' assignments


Our undergraduate Plant Science students produce some amazing work as part of their training. On this page we highlight some of their best recent multi-media outputs.



This year the focus was once again on plants that we use in  our diets. The students focussed on plants we use as herbs and spices in our cooking to flavour our food.  With the title "Spice of Life"  here are some of the videos on plants that we use in a range of foods across multiple cultures and with some intriguing histories. I hope this tantalises your tastebuds and tickles your interest in finding out more about plants and food items we may take for granted.






In an ongoing battle against Plant Blindness, and as an exercise in science communication, the BOT 366 class of 2021, under the watchful eye of Prof. Nigel Barker, were set the challenge of producing a video on a crop / food plant. 

Given the title of "Food for Thought",  students had to research plants that are common and which you might eat daily or weekly, but ACTUALLY have no idea about their origins, history and other unknown facts. 

Working in pairs, under COVID lockdown levels 2 and 3, the students produced some excellent videos that were able to communicate aspects of these plants in an informed and well illustrated manner.

Feast your eyes on these...


Oranges (Citrus sp.):


The heart of lettuce (Lactuca sativa):


Bananas (Musa sp.): 


Garlic (Allium sativum): 


Brinjal / Eggplant / Aubergine (Solanum melongena):


Pumpkin (Cucurbita sp.):


Pineapple (Ananas comosus):




As part of the drive to spread the news about plants and their central place in society, this year's 3rd year BOT 366 class were given an assignment to research the societal impacts that certain plants have had on humans. Titled "Seeds of Controversy: the Dark Side of Plants and Society", students were given the following instructions:


When humans do associate plants with anything relevant in their lives it is usually in the context of food, medicine or poisons. However plants play many other roles in our lives, including aspects of construction materials, aesthetics, spirituality and culture. However, one aspect of plants that is usually not considered is the more negative social impact plants have (or have had) on human lives and history.

This assignment is intended to get you to engage with some of the not so pleasant aspects of humanity in connection with plants. Aspects such as drugs, intoxication, slavery, witchcraft, environmental destruction, etc.

Working in pairs, you are to explore the not-so-nice side of plants and their link to humans. You are required to submit an essay on your chosen plant that documents the darker side of these plants, as well as produce a video submission that summarises your findings in 2 - 3 minutes.    

These are the links to some of the student's submissions. We hope you find them enlightening.
Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis)
Rice (Oryza sativa)
Hoodia sp.


Cannabis sp.



Plants uses the sun’s energy to sustain almost all life on earth, yet most people tend to appreciate animals more than plants. The term “plant blindness” was coined in the late 90’s and refers to the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment, and the incapability to recognize the importance of plants. If most people suffer from “plant blindness” and the fundamental role that plants play in maintaining life, the general public is not likely to agree that plant research and plant conservation is among the most crucial issues that face society. For more on plant blindness read The Conversation Africa article at http://theconversation.com/plant-blindness-is-a-real-thing-why-its-a-real-problem-too-103026  

In a bid to combat plant blindness and give students the opportunity to participate in an extramural learning activity, the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences launched a campaign in the form of a video competition, open to staff and students associated with the Department. The videos had to be a maximum of 3 minutes and showcase plants and the Department in a positive light. A small panel composing a mix of plant scientists, marketing and media people and educators judged the videos and score them on creativity, relevance and the potential impact they could have on public awareness and alleviating plant blindness. Apart from raising public awareness, the opportunity to make videos gave the students a chance to develop multimodal literacy, do problem solving and to learn more about the topic of plant blindness.

The winning videos received prizes, kindly sponsored by Prof Potgieter (Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning) 

The campaign will be continued in 2019 in the form of a photographic competition where the winning photographs will be published in calendar format. More details to follow later. 


"#EndPlantBlindness" by Richard Hay (1st place)



Some of the other notable submissions:

"Take off your blindfold" by Darryl Herron



"#endplantblindness" by Sewes Alberts, JW Hunter and Zane Coles



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