Research, curation, safeguarding, identifying and naming of Kew's Herbarium specimens from Africa.

Purple flower

Team lead: Dr Martin Cheek

Our taxonomic research is specimen-based and mostly in tropical Africa, particularly in Tropical Important Plant Area (TIPA) target countries where our fieldwork with partners is concentrated.

The main focal countries for our research are Guinea, Cameroon, Uganda and Mozambique where we seek to evidence and protect, with partners, critical sites for plant conservation. We also conduct plant collecting surveys in Angola, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. We work closely with teams from other departments, for example, the Plant Assessment Unit, Spatial Analysis and Plant Chemistry to deliver TIPAs.  

Our main outputs are Revisions and Floras (such as Flora Zambesiaca) for groups that are incompletely studied and not covered by monographic researchers in the Integrative Monography team (Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology department). These include: Acanthaceae, Annonaceae, Apocynaceae. s.l.,  Burmanniaceae, Burseraceae, Celastraceae, Convolvulaceae, Cyperaceae, Ebenaceae, Eriocaulaceae, Gesneriaceae, Leguminosae-Detarioideae, Malvales (especially Sterculiaceae (for example Cola), Grewiaceae (Microcos), Meliaceae, Myrsinaceae, in SE Asia: Nepenthaceae, Ochnaceae, Olaceae, Opiliaceae, Podostemaceae, Rubiaceae (for example Keetia, Coffeeae), Rutaceae (Vepris), Ternstroemiaceae, Thismiaceae, and Triuridaceae.

With African partners, we are evidencing the need for in situ conservation, its prioritisation and implementation, through the Tropical Important Plant Areas protocol. In this connection, we are delivering training in taxonomy and in extinction risk assessment in Africa. We are developing research in under-utilised, indigenous, socio-economic species to improve the livelihoods of local communities to motivate the protection, rather than destruction, of natural habitat.

Fieldwork includes collection of material for Plant and Fungal Tree of Life, the Millennium Seedbank Partnership and Economic Botany Collection, if agreements allow.

Curation of the African herbarium specimens at Kew is a major team activity, and includes monitoring pest damage, preparing and incorporating new specimens from our fieldwork and exchanges, specimen identification, rearranging specimens by published revisions, and hosting visiting researchers.

Our specimen identifications are fed into our own project databases, and ultimately released through the Herbcat portal. 

Team members

Senior research leader
Dr Martin Cheek

Research leaders
Dr Iain Darbyshire
Dr Isabel Larridon

Dr Ana Rita Simões

Curator and field officer
Dr Xander van der Burgt

Guinea TIPAs Project Officer
Charlotte Couch

Cameroon TIPA officer
Bruce Murphy

Mozambique TIPAs Project Officer
Sophie Richards

Krukoff Curator of African Botany
Benoit Loeuille

Curator and field officer
Dr Xander van der Burgt

Species Conservation Assessor
Hannah Rotton

Species Conservation Researcher
Ashleigh Whittaker

Honorary researchers
Dr Henk Beentje
Dr Jane Browning
Professor Sebsebe Demissew
Keith Ferguson
Dr Shahina Ghazanfar
Mike Gilbert
George Gosline
Dr David Goyder
Yvette Harvey
Alison Heath
Roger Heath
Dr Sylvia Phillips
Dr Kaj Vollesen

PhD student
Denise Molmou
Toral Shah
Luciana Pereira da Silva