Research into the diversity, distribution and conservation of Africa's flora

Purple flower

Team lead: Dr Martin Cheek

Our taxonomic and systematic 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 Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mozambique and Uganda where we seek to evidence and protect, with partners, critical sites for plant conservation. We also conduct plant collecting surveys and taxonomic research more widely in Africa, for example in Angola, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Zambia. We work closely with teams from other departments, for example, the Plant Assessment team, Spatial Analysis and Plant Chemistry to deliver TIPAs.

Our main outputs are Taxonomic Revisions and Floras (such as Flora Zambesiaca) for groups that are incompletely studied and not covered by monographic researchers in the Integrative Monography team. These include: Acanthaceae, Annonaceae, Apocynaceae. s.l.,  Burmanniaceae, Burseraceae, Celastraceae, Compositae, Convolvulaceae, Cyperaceae, Ebenaceae, Eriocaulaceae, Gesneriaceae, Leguminosae-Detarioideae, Malvales (especially Sterculiaceae/Sterculioideae (for example Cola) and Grewiaceae (Microcos)), Meliaceae, Nepenthaceae (SE Asia), Ochnaceae, Olacaceae, Opiliaceae, Podostemaceae, Primulaceae, 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 TIPAs protocol. In this connection, we are delivering training in taxonomy and collections-based research, extinction risk assessment and application of the IPA criteria in Africa. Alongside this, 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 the Plant and Fungal Tree of Life project, the Millennium Seedbank Partnership and Economic Botany Collection, if agreements allow.

We work closely with the African Curator-Botanist team in the Collections Department to curate our active collections programme, with tasks including preparing and incorporating new specimens from our fieldwork and exchanges, specimen identification, rearranging specimens by published revisions, hosting visiting researchers, and monitoring pest damage.

Our specimen identifications are fed into our own project databases, and ultimately will be released through the Integrated Collections Management System (ICMS) portal as projects are completed. 

Team members

Senior research leader
Dr Martin Cheek

Research leaders
Dr Iain Darbyshire
Dr Benoit Loeuile

Dr Ana Rita Simões

Curator and field officer
Dr Xander van der Burgt

Guinea TIPAs Project Coordinator
Charlotte Couch

Uganda TIPAs Project Officer
Sophie Richards

Krukoff Curator of African Botany

Curator and field officer
Dr Xander van der Burgt

Undergraduate intern
Ellie Defty

Species Conservation Assessor
Hannah Rotton

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

PhD students
Denise Molmou
Ando Andriamanohera
Kaman Guilavogui
Nagnouma Condé
Peng Peng