Rubiaceae of Madagascar
Flowers of Hyperacanthus ambovombensis Rakotonas. & A.P.Davis. Photo: A. Davis.
The Rubiaceae of Madagascar project started in 1997, with the goal of producing an accelerated survey for the Rubiaceae of Madagascar. There were originally five product-linked objectives: 1) an identification manual to genera; 2) a provisional checklist to species; 3) a specimen database; 4) to use the database interactively within a Geographical Information System (GIS) to investigate plant diversity and distribution patterns for conservation planning; 5) taxonomic revisions of the selected groups (with a focus on Coffea).
The identification manual to genera has been compiled but further morphological study and investigations using molecular systematics are required before the product can be completed. It is our intention to publish this part of the project as A Guide to the Rubiaceae of Madagascar. This book would be a collaborative venture between RBG Kew and the Botanical and Zoological Gardens in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the National Botanical Gardens of Belgium. So far the materials for the identification guide have been collated from literature review, study of herbarium specimens, fieldwork and original research (morphology and molecular systematics). The book will include descriptions of 89 genera, identification keys, distribution maps, and a checklist to approximately 760 species, forming an invaluable guide and reference source for the Rubiaceae of Madagascar.
The specimen database with GIS interface became operational in 1998, and was upgraded in 2000 and 2004. This facility has been of considerable value as a dynamic resource for providing baseline conservation data on threatened areas and species. The specimen database was constructed using herbarium specimen label data, entered from specimens housed at the herbaria of Kew (K), Paris (P), Antananarivo (TAN, TEF), and Missouri (MO). All specimens from Kew have been databased, along with selected groups from other herbaria. Approximately 12,000 specimen records have been captured in the database.
The draft version of a taxonomic revision of Coffea in Madagascar was completed during the course of the project, despite finding that there are twice as many species as estimated in our original proposal. We have discovered 17 Malagasy Coffea species new to science, 12 of which have been published. The publication of the taxonomic revision of Madagascan Coffea was suspended pending molecular investigations into the delimitation of the genus Coffea . This molecular systematic work has now been finished and a new publication is now nearing completion, entitled The Coffees of Madagascar — A regional monograph of the genus Coffea L. in Madagascar and the Comoros . Since 2001, revisions of the genera Gardenia , Bertiera and Flagenium have been completed.
Malagasy student Franck Rakotonasolo has worked on the project for more than five years. He is currently studying for a PhD in Madagascar, with study visits to RBG Kew, on the systematics of the genus Hyperacanthus (Rubiaceae).
The main focus for the Rubiaceae of Madagascar project for 2006 onwards is the completion of a Flora account for the subfamily Ixoroideae, in collaboration with partner institutes.