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Diversity of Neotropical Meliaceae - COMPLETED

Taxonomic and systematic studies of an important timber tree family

The ongoing project is documenting the diversity of Neotropical Meliaceae: a medium sized family of about 150 species in the Flora Neotropica region, containing most of the premier timber trees of the Neotropics including true mahogany and its relatives. These timbers are widely used throughout Latin America in construction, building and joinery. The main focus of current work is updating the 1981 Flora Neotropica account of the family.

The new generic accounts will include new keys to species, descriptions of new species, new distribution maps using GIS techniques, and a phylogenetic framework for the major genera based on DNA sequencing. Morphological accounts of Guarea (69 spp.), Trichilia (80 spp.) and Cedrela (17 spp.) are now complete and the DNA studies (with Jim Clarkson) are well advanced.

Additional work includes the production of a series of floristic accounts for local floras. Accounts for Flora of NicaraguaFlora of the Venezuelan GuyanaFlora of Central French GuianaFlora of Central Amazonia and Flora of the Guianas (with Nicky Biggs) are already published or in press. Future accounts include Flora of Peru. The project began in 2004 and is due to run until end 2012.

Key papers published since 2006

  • Pennington, T. D. & Muellner, A. N. (2010). A monograph of Cedrela (Meliaceae). dh books, Dorset.
  • Pennington, T. D. (2010). Meliaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the (accessed 3 October 2011). 

Project partners and collaborators

Costa Rica
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio)
Herbario Nacional del Ecuador (QCNE)
Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM)
New York Botanical Garden


Project funders

Leverhulme Trust
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew