High-throughput sequencing of African chikanda cake highlights conservation challenges in orchids

Sarina Veldman, Barbara Gravendeel, Joseph N. Otieno, Youri Lammers, Elza Duijm, Aline Nieman, Benny Bytebier, Grace Ngugi, Florent Martos, Tinde R. van Andel, Hugo J. de Boer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Chikanda is a traditional dish made with wild-harvested ground orchid tubers belonging to three orchidioid genera, Disa, Satyrium and Habenaria, all of which are CITES appendix II-listed. Identification of collected orchid tubers is very difficult and documentation of constituent species in prepared chikanda has hitherto been impossible. Here amplicon metabarcoding was used in samples of six prepared chikanda cakes to study genetic sequence diversity and species diversity in this product. Molecular operational taxonomic unit identification using similarity-matching reveals that species of all three genera were present in the chikanda samples studied. Disa was present in all of the samples, Satyrium in five out of six and Habenaria in one of the samples, as well as a number of other plants. The fact that each sample contained orchids and the presence of a wide variety of species from all genera in this traditional dish raise serious concerns about the sustainability of this trade and the future of wild orchid populations in the main harvest areas. This proof-of-concept study shows that Ion-Torrent PGM is a cost-effective scalable platform for metabarcoding using the relatively long nrITS1 and nrITS2 regions. Furthermore, nrITS metabarcoding can be successfully used for the detection of specific ingredients in a highly-processed food product at genus level, and this makes it a useful tool in the detection of possible conservation issues arising from commercialized trade or processed plant products.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2029-2046
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Disa
  • Ethnobotany
  • Habenaria
  • Ion-Torrent PGM
  • Satyrium
  • Wildlife forensics


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