Flora of Tropical East Africa - COMPLETED 2012
The Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA) was completed in 2012, and is the largest regional tropical Flora ever completed, covering 12,500 species: some four percent of the World’s Flora. It was first set up in 1948; the first parts were published in 1952 and it was completed 60 years later.
What started off as a series of quick-and-ready treatments of small families soon came up against reality. It became clear that the larger families would take much more time, and it was realised that our knowledge and collecting coverage of the various East African habitats was very uneven. So a vigorous collecting programme was set up to run parallel with, and in preparation for, the Flora writing, and gradually East Africa became one of the best collected regions on the African continent.
It became clear that the total number of species for this vast area, with its enormous range of habitats – from desert to rainforest, from coastal zone to over 5,800 metres – had been under-estimated and was in reality close to 12,500 species. And so the goalposts kept on changing! But a range of authors tackled more and more families. Many Kew staff cut their taxonomic teeth on Flora treatments; but other British, Belgian, Austrian, Kenyan, American, Ugandan, Dutch, Ghanaian, Swedish, Norwegian, Egyptian, Danish, French, Zimbabwean, South African, Ethiopian, German, Spanish, Polish and Portuguese authors also contributed. This was truly an international effort – and it still is. When completed, this will be the largest published regional Flora in the world; will have brought order to where chaos was before; will enable African scientists to build on a solid taxonomy; and will provide national checklists of plant diversity, plus a large and important source of data for conservation purposes.
Producing Floras like FTEA is one of Kew’s strong points – we can have horizons larger than the 3-year ones that many Universities have to suffer under, and we have both a range of specialists under our roof and the network of overseas colleagues to help fill the many gaps.
And the outcome? Not ‘just’ a Flora – this is a baseline tool for any work on wild plants in the region, such as utilisation of wild plants, ecology, vegetation science, and of course on conservation work. FTEA highlights where the areas of high plant diversity are, and which species are endemic to very small areas. This kind of work enables much other work, and underpins such work with a solid foundation.
Project partners and collaborators
Ryding, Olov (Botanical Museum, Copenhagen)
Ensermu, Kelbessa (Addis Ababa University)
Meve, Ulrich (University of Bayreuth)
Liede-Schumann, Sigrid (University of Bayreuth)
Mwachala, Geoffrey (National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi)
Masinde, Siro (National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi)
Lukhoba, Catherine (University of Nairobi)
Otieno, Don (Moi University, Eldoret)
Balkwill, Kevin (University of Witwatersrand)
Edmonds, Jenny (University of Leeds)
Phillipson, Peter (Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis)
Faden, Robert (Smithsonian Institution, Washington)