Help us save glossy-leaved gardenia
Glossy-leaved gardenia (Gardenia nitida) is a member of the Rubiaceae family and a rare and endangered plant species. You can help Kew safeguard this plant for our future by adopting a seed for yourself, or as a gift for £25.
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership Burkina Faso team had been looking for glossy-leaved gardenia (Gardenia nitida) in West Africa for some time - it is rare that a habitat is not well known.
It is a small tree, about 1.5-2 m tall, with smooth bark. The flowers are white, turning golden yellow and the oblong fruits are hard and woody.
Many of the vulnerable species in West Africa are ecologically located in the semi-dry buffer zones between the Sahara desert in the north and the sub-humid, tropical forests in the south.
The first herbarium specimens were collected in 1997 during a botanical exploration, organised jointly by the Ouagadougou University and the Floristic Centre of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.
From seed bank to seedling
Glossy-leaved gardenia (Gardenia nitida) is a native to west tropical Africa. William J. Hooker, the first Director of Kew, published the name and description of this plant species in 1847 and over 160 years later, the seeds of this small tree were collected and added to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, at Wakehurst, West Sussex.
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, through its African partners, has began using its expertise in seed handling and germination to support local, government and NGO-led tree propagation and planting schemes. Nearly 62,000 tree seedlings were produced and planted through this initiative during 2010.
In Mali, tree seedlings were planted in village woodlands, sacred forests, schools and home gardens to mark the 50th anniversary of independence. In Ghana the seedlings were planted in cocoa farms.
Some schemes resulted in certain tree species, including the glossy-leaved gardenia, being cultivated for the first time. Other species included Securidaca longepedunculata, Erythrina senegalensis, Garcinia kola, Tetrapleura tetraptera, species of Terminalia and Spondias mombin.
Dangerous to collect!
The Millennium Seed Bank collecting team was unsuccessful in retrieving seed from this plant species after hours of an exhausting walk along the river Comoe confluences, during a first expedition to the Folonzo and Diefoula forests in 2006.
During a second expedition to the area in March 2007, and after walking for four hours and covering more than 10 km along the forest gallery of the Comoe-Leraba, we saw a tree of glossy-leaved gardenia (Gardenia nitida) in a dense forest formation.
We then observed it closely and started looking for other trees close-by. About 5 m beyond the first tree we found another one and then a third tree about 20 m further on. We were so satisfied and happy that we continued to search the vicinity within about a 2 km radius. By the end of our search, we found only five individuals. This convinced us that we had to deal with these five trees, which luckily were in fruit and we could make a good collection.
We were mainly afraid of lions and panthers.Lassina Sanou
Despite the high temperatures and exhaustion, due to the long day, we were able to pick fruits quickly and get back to our base before dark. We had never been so scared during a seed collecting trip, as many predators in the area come out at nightfall. We were mainly afraid of lions and panthers which are frequent in this forest. Fortunately it all ended well and we were very satisfied and proud with the collection we made, of one of the rarest plant species in Burkina.
Story by Lassina Sanou (Translation by Moctar Sacande)
You can adopt this seed for yourself, or as a gift for £25.
When you Adopt a Seed, you'll receive a personalised certificate, featuring your plant species, as a downloadable PDF document you can print off, and regular updates over the year from the Millennium Seed Bank.
For an additional £2, you can have an Adoption Pack posted (either to you, or direct to a gift recipient) featuring a certificate and a full colour picture of your species (UK only).
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew