Discovered on a Kew expedition on the island of Madagascar, Coffea pterocarpa, the Madagascan wing-fruited coffee, is one of the most bizarre-looking of all coffee species.
The green/yellow wings.on the fruits make them more visible to animals, such as lemurs, which help to disperse the seeds. The fruits of this plant species are also adapted to water-dispersal, as they float very well, unlike most other coffee species which sink.
It is known only from the Namoroka area, in western Madagascar, where fewer than ten plants were found. It is possible that it may be found elsewhere in Namoroka, although the total area of the reserve is only 220 km², with suitable habitat considerably less.
Madagascar is a globally important biodiversity hotspot facing huge difficulties with conservation. Most of these species are found only in Madagascar (meaning they are endemic) and many have restricted distributions with small populations. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and with the latest political turmoil and a failing economy the outlook for the regions biodiversity is bleak. The need for conservation and sustainable development is greater than ever.
Coffee farming supports more than 25 million farming families in around 50 countries, but commercial cultivars are already being influenced by climate change. Kew is studying the effects of climate change on coffee and undertaking research to support wild coffee conservation. Understanding the potential use of wild coffee species could help commercial production and the supply of coffee in the future, particularly in terms of combating pests and diseases and adaptation to environmental change.