Reto Nyffeler

The Cactophile

“I play my part in the background, firming up the foundations,” says Reto Nyffeler, with the hint of a smile and the confident modesty of a researcher who has long found their niche in the scientific community. Ever since his cactus-collecting schooldays, Nyffeler has been fascinated by plants whose adaptability enables them to survive at the very fringes of life.

As curator of vascular plants for the combined herbaria of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, which are affiliated to the UZH Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Nyffeler’s responsibilities embrace various projects in the digitization field. It’s a major undertaking, but one that is becoming more and more vital, given the growing need for vast volumes of data on the scope of plant diversity today. “This kind of information is extremely valuable to research into climate change and species extinction worldwide,” he explains.

Reto Nyffeler is equally dedicated to the principles of his profession through his role as co-editor of the eight-volume Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants. The standard work in its field, the handbook collates, classifies and attributes the global knowledge on some 12,000 types of succulents that has been accumulated over the last two hundred years.


Alice Werner

Translation: Paul Day