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Rubiaceae of Africa - COMPLETED

A project describing and understanding the Rubiaceae (coffee family) flora of Africa. Rubiaceae are key indicators of forest type and condition.
Vangueriopsis shimbaensis A. P. Davis & Q. Luke. A new species from Kenya. Drawing by © Lucy T. Smith


Kew has made a long-standing commitment to tropical African floristics, which continues to the present day with Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA), Flora Zambeziaca (FZ) and other long-term projects in Africa, particularly in Cameroon. The Rubiaceae parts of FTEA and FZ works have been completed but there are still numermous new taxa that were recognised but not formally described (e.g. as new species), due to the lack of critical plant material. In addition, exploratory work in West Africa has lead to the discovery of numerous new species, particularly in Cameroon and Guinea.

The aim of this project is to pool knowledge and specimen resources from Kew and other international herbaria, including those in Belgium, Cameroon, East Africa, and the United States, and describe as many new species as possible, and where necessary provide new taxonomic revisions. This work is undertaken within an international collaborative network of Rubiaceae specialists.

In African forests Rubiaceae are usually the dominant family in terms of species numbers, especially in the shrub layer, but they also present in the herbaceous understorey and in the canopy, as large trees, epiphytes and lianas. Most of the new species now being discovered and published by this project are localised and threatened by development, and so IUCN conservation assessments are included in all publications.

Project partners and collaborators


Université de Yaoundé I: Prof. Bonaventure Sonké


National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise: Olivier Lachenaud


Coastal Forest Conservation Unit, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi: Quentin Luke


Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri: : Roy Gereau

Annex material

Key papers published since 2006: 

1. Sonke, B., Nguembou, K.C. & Davis, A.P. (2006). A new dwarf Coffea (Rubiaceae) from southern Cameroon. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 151 (3): 425-430.
2. Cheek, M., Corcoran, M. & Howarth, A. (2008). Four new species of Psychotria (Rubiaceae) with bacterial nodes from western Cameroon. Kew Bulletin 63: 405-418.
3. Cheek, M. (2009). Mussaenda epiphytica sp nov (Rubiaceae), an epiphytic shrub from cloud forest of the Bakossi Mts, western Cameroon. Nordic Journal of Botany 27: 456-459.
4. Davis, A.P., Luke, Q. (2010). A new species of Vangueriopsis Robyns (Rubiaceae) from Kenya: V. shimbaensis. Nordic Journal of Botany 28(5): 513–515.
5. Dawson, S.E. & Gereau, R. (2010). New species of Aidia and Polysphaeria (Rubiaceae) from East Africa. Novon 20: 256-264. 

Total number of papers published since 2006: 15

Project Department