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Diversity of Neotropical Sapotaceae

Documenting one of the key components of the rain forests of Latin America

Manilkara zapota, formerly tapped for its latex (chicle), in Belize.

The focus of this project is the production of a series of monographic studies of Sapotaceae, documenting the diversity of the family in the Neotropics. The Sapotaceae comprise some 400 species of forest trees with centres of diversity in the Guiana Shield and eastern flanks of the Andes. They form a major floristic and structural component of Amazonian rain forest, and are characterized by heavy hard resistant timbers used in construction and parquet.

Accounts for Flora Mesoamericana, Central French Guiana, Central Amazonia, Venezuelan Guiana and Ecuador are already published. Future outputs include accounts for the Guianas (with Sara Edwards) and Peru. DNA studies are under way to reconstruct hypothetical phylogenies. The project began in 1980 and is due to run until 2012.

Key publications since 2006 

  • Pennington, T. D. (2007). Sapotaceae. In: G. Harling & C. Persson (ser. eds), Flora of Ecuador. vol. 152. Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Göteborg University, Sweden.
  • Pennington, T. D. (2010). Sapotaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics. www.kew.org/neotropikey (accessed 3 October 2011).

Project partners and collaborators

Costa RicaInstituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio)
EcuadorHerbario Nacional del Ecuador (QCNE)
PeruUniversidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM)
SwedenSwedish Museum of Natural History
UKRoyal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
USANew York Botanical Garden