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Photo of Richard Symmonds RICHARD SYMMONDS

Richard Symmonds works with the Silver Glen Nursery, a project of the Parks Department in the City of Durban, South Africa. As a horticulturalist he's aware that that many indigenous plant species used by South Africa's traditional healers are becoming scarce.

Symmonds encourages traditional healers to cultivate and preserve wild plants. As you see on "Science Safari", Symmonds' plant nursery has raised seedlings for many rare species, including the pepperbark tree, which is in high demand as a cough remedy. Symmonds gives plant seedlings to traditional healers like Mr. Cele, also seen on this program, so they can cultivate the plants themselves. Even though healers traditionally prefer wild plants, the Silver Glen Nursery program is successful because the healers know better than anybody what plants are becoming scarce. "We can't find these plants at all where we live," says one the healers. "That's why we want to plant them -- so we'll always have them."

See Richard Symmonds's answers to Ask the Scientists questions.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.