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Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in Mexico

The Useful Plants Project in Mexico is addressing both long and short term conservation measures for plant species from the village of San Rafael Coxcatlán.

Vegetation in San Rafael

Objectives

The aim is to increase the local community’s plant conservation capabilities and to involve them in the ex situ conservation programme of the arid regions of Mexico within Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project. 

The main objectives of the project in Mexico are to:

  • compile a list of the plants of San Rafael Coxcatlán that are most useful to the local community
  • collect and conserve the seeds of these species
  • study propagation of the useful plants in greenhouse facilities
  • produce technical sheets with information about these species and how to conserve and propagate them
  • study the chemical compounds and the healing properties of selected medicinal plants
  • build a rural greenhouse in the community of San Rafael Coxcatlán 

Activities in Mexico

Scientists from UBIPRO, FES-Iztacala, UNAM, in Mexico City are working closely with the community of San Rafael Coxcatlán. The most useful species have been identified with the community so that they can be conserved and investigated for sustainable use.

The team has already made good progress helping the local community to successfully store and propagate these species. Collected seeds are being dried and stored in Mexico with duplicates at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.

A rural greenhouse has been constructed in San Rafael Coxcatlán to propagate the plants and teach conservation and propagation techniques to the local people.

The scientists are carrying out research on selected medicinal plants. The team lead by Dr Cesar Flores is investigating the conditions for ex situ propagation of these plants, while a second team lead by Dr Guillermo Avila is studying their chemical compounds and biological activity.

A database for the project has been built to hold all the findings, while more practical information on the conservation, propagation and sustainable use of selected medicinal species is compiled in technical information sheets for wider distribution.

View a gallery of the Useful Plants Project in Mexico


Project partners and collaborators

Collaborators in Mexico

  • The Universidad Nacional Autónoma (Autonomous National University, UNAM) at the Unidad de Biologia
  • Tecnologia, y Prototipos (Biology, Technology and Prototype Unit, UBIPRO)
  • FES-Iztacala, UNAM, is the collaborator in Mexico for this Project
  • Facultad de Estudios Superiores Iztacala, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (FESI-UNAM)
  • Community of San Rafael Coxcatlán (central-southern Mexico)

People in Mexico

  • Dr Rafael Lira, UPP Coordinator in Mexico

San Rafael Coxcatlán is a small village of about 300 people located in the state of Puebla, in central-southern Mexico. Its main economic activity is linked to agriculture, mainly sugarcane production. The climate varies from semi-arid to arid with temperature ranging from 18°C - 25°C. Mr Martín López, who is from the community of San Rafael Coxcatlán, assists in seed collecting and identifying the species in the field.

UPP in other countries

Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in Botswana
Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in Kenya
Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in South Africa
Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in Mali

Project team

Jodrell Laboratory
Monique Simmonds

Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives
Oliver Whaley

Kew Foundation
Andrea Diez de Sollano

Seed Conservation
The Useful Plants Project is overseen by Dr Paul Smith and managed by Dr Tiziana Ulian.

Other members of the management team are Moctar Sacande, Tim Pearce, Michiel van Slageren and Michael Way,  with support from Roger Smith (retired).

The research part of the project is overseen by Hugh Pritchard, with support from Charlotte Seal and Louise Colville.

Project Leader: