The commercially important plants in the genus Cyclopia spp. are indigenous to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa and are used to manufacture an herbal tea known as honeybush tea. Growing in the low nutrient fynbos soils, these plants are highly dependent on symbiotic interactions with soil microorganisms for nutrient acquisition. The aim of this study was to investigate the soil bacterial communities associated with two commercially important Cyclopia species, namely C. subternata and C. longifolia. Specific interest was the differences between rhizosphere and bulk soil collected from natural sites and commercially grown plants. Samples were collected on two occasions to include a dry summer and wet winter season. Results showed that the dominant bacterial taxa associated with these plants included Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria. Commercial and natural as well as rhizosphere and bulk soil samples were highly similar in bacterial diversity and species richness. Significant differences were detected in bacterial community structures and co-occurrence patterns between the wet and dry seasons. The results of this study improved our knowledge on what effect commercial Cyclopia plantations and seasonal changes can have on soil bacterial communities within the endemic fynbos biome.
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