Enelge Gildenhuys

Background and research

Cardiospermum fruits

Figure 1: A diagnostic feature of the genus Cardiospermum is their inflated fruits in which the seeds are held. (Image: JJ le Roux)

I am embarking on the adventures of an MSc degree at the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology after obtaining my BSc and BSc (Hons) degrees at the University of Stellenbosch.

Cardiospermum fruit

Figure 2: Close-up of a ripe Cardiospermum fruit which will soon burst open to release seeds. (Image: JJ le Roux)

The title of my thesis is ‘Unravelling biogeographic uncertainties in the genus Cardiospermum: a multiple species concept approach’. Specifically, my first research aim is to publish a review on the introduction, spread and current distribution of this genus, since no such review has been published and information on this genus is hard to come by and often contradicting. As a part of my review I want to determine the future global spread of already invasive Cardiospermum species such as C. grandiflorum, C. corindum and C. halicacabum. Secondly I hope to reconstruct a phylogeny for this genus. With this new phylogeny I hope to resolve the native origin of selected species in this genus, which has major implications for conservation of biodiversity. A third aim is to investigate to possibility of hybridization between selected species and to determine the potential dangers associated with hybridization. Another part of this chapter would be to determine native ranges using the biological species concept, which would contribute to my findings of my second aim.

Understanding these aspects are important as South Africa’s Working For Water has invested lots of time and money in identifying suitable biocontrol agents against invasive Cardiospermum taxa in South Africa. However, non-target effects have been noted on putative African taxa of Cardiospermum therefore requiring a revised taxonomy of this genus.