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An integrated approach to Cyrtandra (Gesneriaceae)

Cyrtandra is the largest genus in the Gesneriaceae (African Violet family), with an estimated 600+ species: we aim to further our knowledge of the genus through taxonomic and phylogenetic study, continuing the work that has already shown Cyrtandra to be a model genus for answering critical biological questions.
Cyrtandra fulviserica Bramley, endemic to Sabah (Malaysian Borneo)

Cyrtandra J.R. & G. Forst. is the largest genus in the Gesneriaceae, containing at least 600 species. Its distribution stretches east from the Nicobar Islands, across Malesia to the Philippines, Taiwan, southern Ryukyu Islands, northern Queensland and the Loyalty Islands, to the high islands of the Pacific and Hawaii. Its centres of diversity are New Guinea and Borneo (each with over 150 species) and the Philippines (over 80 species).

The size and distribution of Cyrtandra make tackling its taxonomy problematic. It is, however, also its size and distribution that make its potential for answering critical, biological questions, including those to do with biogeography and ecology, so great. The challenge is to find a way to prioritise taxonomic and molecular work in the future in a way that is achievable and timely.

In order to make progress on understanding this complex genus, a multi-institutional collaboration has been formed to pool resources, fieldwork and expertise in completing this goal. Under development at Kew, a Cyrtandra scratchpad will bring together all the information that we hold on nomenclature, species distributions, preliminary conservation assessments and descriptions, as well as identification keys, in a single place that is available to the research community. At Kew and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh the remaining alpha taxonomic work is being tackled using a regional approach, with initial focus on Borneo, Sulawesi and New Guinea, the eventual goal being the Flora Malesiana account for the genus. At Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, the exisiting phylogeny of Cyrtandra is being expanded using samples collected by each of the collaborating institutes. With this tool we aim to move closer to an infrageneric classification and to further the work that has already shown Cyrtandra to be a model genus for answering critical biological questions.

Project partners and collaborators


Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh


Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Smithsonian Institute