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Field Guide to the Orchids of Madagascar - COMPLETED 2009

Selling Vanilla decaryana for an aphrodisiac on the road to Berenty

The Orchidaceae is the largest family of flowering plants in Madagascar with an estimated 1,000 species. The last treatment was by Henri Perrier de la Bathie for the Flore de Madagascar in 1939-1941. Since then many new species have been published, and Perrier's account is now unobtainable. Orchids occur throughout the island, even in secondary grassland and the spiny forest. Almost 90% of the species are endemic to Madagascar.  They are valuable indicators of environmental health and are vulnerable to vegetation clearance and illegal collecting. Many species are known from only one or few sites and are critically endangered.

We aim to produce an identification guide based on field characters and photographs (we already have excellent photographs of over half of the known species). It will follow the format of a typical bird guide with text opposite the photographs.  Distributions will be indicated by coloured dot maps based on RBG Kew's database of Madagascan orchid specimens. It will be published in English and Malagasy by RBG Kew, and hopefully in French (depending on finding a suitable co-publisher). The need for the guide was identified by the Madagascar Threatened Plants Project after discussions with guides in nature reserves and national parks and local NGOs. Orchids are also a major tourist attraction and we anticipate that tourists would comprise a significant market for the English and French language editions.

Orchidaceae is one of Kew's priority target groups in Madagascar and identifying species in the field has proved particularly difficult. Underpinning the field guide are comprehensive taxonomic treatments by Kew- and Paris-based specialists.

Project partners and collaborators

FranceLaboratoire de Phanérogamie, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle

Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza