Dr Gary Stafford

University of Pretoria
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Senior Lecturer Plant Science
Programme Leader: Indigenous Food And Medicinal Plants


Dr Gary Stafford has been conducting research on various aspects of African Traditional Medicine since starting his MSc (NU) in 2002. As an ethnobotanist and ethnopharmacologist his main research interests have been on the utilization, production and development of plants used in indigenous medicine in South Africa, but he is also interested in policy development, chemotaxonomy, chemical ecology, plant systematics and evolution. His current research explores three main areas:

  • The evolution of plant secondary metabolites through studies of potential correlations between phylogeny (evolutionary history), population genetics, and biological interactions, such as herbivory or endosymbionts, on the quantity and quality of natural products (chemical functional traits). This study forms part of a larger project investigating the biotic and abiotic factors contributing to plant chemistry, in particular secondary plant metabolites, at various stages of growth (e.g. seasonality) and ultimately postharvest and under different preparation methods (e.g. drying, aging fermentation).

  • The ethnobotany, chemistry and biological activity of plant-derived smoke.

  • The ethnobotany, chemistry and biological activity of plants used to treat central nervous system-related ailments, such as epilepsy, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.