African Plants Initiative
A specimen of Colophospermum mopane (Leguminosae) collected by John Kirk in Mozambique
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a founding partner of the African Plants Initiative (API), an international partnership collaborating to produce an online database of scholarly information about African plants. The partnership continues to grow in size, but currently includes 44 botanical institutions representing 20 countries in Africa, Europe and the US.
RBG Kew's involvement in the project began from its inception at the Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa (AETFAT) conference in Ethiopia in September 2003. Dedicated digitisation staff have been employed on the project since March 2004. The bulk of the digitisation work is due to be completed by the end of May 2006, in anticipation of the initial launch of the online resource in July 2006.
The principal content for the database will be label data and high resolution (600ppi) images of African type specimens deposited in participating herbaria. RBG Kew will be contributing over 70,000 putative type specimen records from our own collections, the majority of which will have been digitised courtesy of funding supplied specifically for the API project. When completed, the collaborative database is expected to include over 300,000 specimen records in total.
Complementing the type specimens, the online resource will bring together additional plant information, making it possible to combine searches and access material from currently disparate collections. Kew is contributing digitised illustrations, archive materials, botanists' slides and texts. The Flora of West Tropical Africa and the Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa have both been digitised for this project, as have over 1,200 original illustrations from Curtis' Botanical Magazine . Archive materials will include, amongst others, over 6,500 sheets of Africa-related material from the Director's Correspondence, photographs of artefacts from the Economic Botany collection, and papers from Livingstone's Zambezi expedition.