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South American Myrteae (Myrtaceae) Online

Making baseline taxonomic Myrteae (Myrtaceae) data available online.
Specimen collected by Richard Spruce (1850).  Label reads 'Possibly sent before, but these Myrtles are so much alike that I dare not say which are species'.
Of the Myrtaceae, Neotropical tribe Myrteae is the group for which baseline taxonomy is most lacking. Due to high morphological variation at all taxonomic levels the tribe has a taxonomic and nomenclatural history fraught with difficulty and duplication of names. It is common for a species to be described several times so ultimately an accepted species name may have many synonyms. The resulting situation is one of extreme taxonomic instability; it is often difficult to know where to start when making identifications as even confidently assigning a genus can be a frustrating and tedious task.

The World Checklist of Myrtaceae was made available online in 2006 after collaborating old and new world specialists were brought together at Kew to edit a newly compiled manuscript; the list was published in hard copy in 2008. This exercise, in part guided by the phylogeny projects underway at Kew has produced much synonymy and has clarified much subtribal nomenclature. The online World checklist of Myrtaceae is a searchable list providing accepted scientific names and synonyms and allows searches of all scientific names of a particular genus, or the distribution of a taxon by country and TDWG code. It is now a widely cited work and has formed the backbone of subsequent high impact projects such as the Lista de Espécies da Flora do Brasil and the Lista da flora vascular da Mata Atlântica. It is also a major contribution to Kew’s commitment to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, addressing Target 1: A widely accessible working list of known plant species and is a step towards a complete world flora.

In order to maximise the reach and understanding of such a large exercise in synonymisation, images of the type specimens concerned have been made available on-line (via the GPI project). These allow users to satisfy themselves that the many taxonomic decisions are just and provide a reference collection of correctly verified type material of use to South American Myrtaceae researchers and ecologists in Myrtaceae rich areas. A further co-operative Myrtaceae web-site (CoTRAM - is hosted by the Arizona State University (ASU) where types from herbaria outside the GPI consortia are also available. A pilot of Kew type images have been contributed to CoTRAM and it is anticipated others will follow.

All specimens of key genera have been databased to provide powerful datasets of use to ecological and other projects. Some of this information is in press as the fifth and final version of the Listagem preliminar das Myrtaceae no Nordeste do Brasil/Preliminary Checklist of Myrtaceae in Northeastern Brazil. Expanded datasets will be further repatriated and made available online as part of the Brazilian funded REFLORA project.

A scratchpad is under construction to make available taxonomic, ecological and distribution data for species of Myrcia s.l. Species of two of the clades identified by the Myrcia s.l. phylogeny project (clades 1 and 9) are initial groups for inclusion in the scratchpad.
Publications since 2006
  • Araujo, A.C. Lucas, E.J. & Wilson, C. (2001). Myrcia scratchpad (under development) available at
  • Lucas, E., Nunes, T.S. & Nic Lughadha, E. (in press). Lista preliminar da Família Myrtaceae na Região Nordeste do Brasil (Série Repatriamento de Dados do Herbário de Kew para a Flora do Nordeste do vol. 5.). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Sobral, M., Proença, C., Costa Souza, M., Mazine-Capelo, F. & Lucas, E. (2009). Myrtaceae in Catálogo de Plantas e Fungos do Brasil, v. 2 Ed. Forzza, R.C. et al. Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro.
  • Sobral, M., Lucas, E.J, Landrum, L.A. & Soares-Silva, L. (2009). Myrtaceae in Stehmann, J.; R. Forzza, R.C.; Salino, A.; Sobral, M.; Costa, D.P. & Kamino, L.H.Y. (eds.) Plantas da Floresta Atlântica. Rio de Janeiro.
  • Govaerts, R., Sobral, M., Ashton, P., Barrie, F., Holst, B.K., Landrum, L.L., Matsumoto, K., Mazine, F.F., Nic Lughadha, E., Proença, C., Soares-Silva, L.H., Wilson, P.G. & Lucas, E. (2008) World Checklist of Myrtaceae. (Kew Publishing: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew).

Project partners and collaborators

Arizona State University

Project team

Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives

Eve Lucas, Ana Claudia Araújo, Christine Wilson, Eimear Nic Lughadha, Rafael Govaerts

Project Leader: