Honeybush (Cyclopia spp.) phenology and associated arthropod diversity in the Overberg region, South Africa
Keywords:indigenous fynbos crop, resprouter, reseeder, Cyclopia phenology, arthropod biodiversity, agroecology, biodiversity-friendly cultivation
Background: Cyclopia is endemic to regions of the Cape Floristic Region across the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa and is commonly known as honeybush. Honeybush has historically been used as an herbal tea, and has proven medicinal properties. Honeybush biomass and extracts are used in the functional foods and cosmetics sectors, both locally and overseas. The growing demand for honeybush calls for increased agricultural production and a shift away from the predominantly wild harvested supply.
Objectives: The current study aimed to address the lack of baseline knowledge on honeybush phenology and its associated arthropod community to advance sustainable production of commercially valued plants in the genus.
Method: The study was conducted on wild and cultivated Cyclopia species (Cyclopia maculata and Cyclopia genistoides) at respective sites in the Overberg region. Sampling took place from April 2014 to April 2015 using qualitative methods for recording seasonal honeybush phenology and suction sampling for aboveground arthropods. Focal insect taxa (Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Thysanoptera, Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera) were sorted and identified to family level and classified into functional feeding guilds.
Results: Qualitative phenology observations of wild C. maculata and cultivated C. genistoides indicated a high level of congruency in seasonality of phenophase stages. Associated arthropod assemblages contained a diversity of families per functional feeding group, namely phytophagous, zoophagous and omnivorous taxa, with high seasonal variability.
Conclusion: Findings highlight the complexity of ecological elements to be taken into consideration for ecologically sound honeybush cultivation. Outcomes can be applied to land management practices and governance policies promoting sustainable agroecosystems in honeybush production areas.