Africa and Madagascar team

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

Monodora myristica

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. With partners in the Natural Capital and Plant Health department at Kew, 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 and Madagascan 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 David Goyder

Early career research fellow
Dr Isabel Larridon

Andrew Budden
Nina Davies
Aurélie Grall
Harry Smith
Martin Xanthos

Curator and field officer
Xander van der Burgt

Seed banking botanists 
Daniel Cahen
Beverley Holt

Guinea TIPA technical adviser
Charlotte Couch

Mozambique TIPA officers
Jo Osborne
Saba Rokni

Flora Zambesiaca editor
Miguel Angel Garcia

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

PhD student
Bruce Murphy


More projects

  • Guinea Important Plant Areas
  • Guinea Capacity Building
  • Global Trees Africa 
  • Krukoff Curator of African Botany, researching African Cyperaceae
  • Conservation of the Critically Endangered Vernonia guineensis
  • Simandou conservation capacity Building (Rio Tinto-Guinea)
  • Sierra Leone survey and capacity building project- Joule-Univ, Sierra Leone.
  • Ethiopia TIPAs support
  • Flora of the Mascarenes