Research

Our current research projects

Higher classification of vascular plants

The classification of vascular plants have changed dramatically with the advent of molecular systematics. Through comparison of DNA taxonomists can place taxa that previously were difficult to place due to their unusual morphology, or species that were morphologically similar were found to be unrelated. Over the last 20 years, most relationships have become clear, although a few taxa remain to be placed. We target these species and try to place them with certainty and make the necessary nomenclatural changes. Several new families (Petenaeaceae, Kewaceae, Macarthuriaceae), based on previously unplaced taxa, have already been published and accepted by our researchers since APG III and further studies will likely result in further unravelling of relationships. In addition, several books (including The Flowering Plants Handbook) are being published and compiled as a result of this work.

 African systematics and floras

Our research is primarily focused on the Myrtaceae and Icacinaceae families on the continent. We are undertaking phylogenetic and evolutionary analyses alongside compiling checklists and taxonomic revisions for the groups. We are also writing several flora treatments notably the Myrtaceae account for the Flore du Cameroun, as well as the Ixonathaceae and Picrodendraceae accounts for Flore d’Afrique Centrale.

Myrtaceae species (left to right): Syzygium cordatum, S. mamillatum and Eugenia sp.
Myrtaceae species (left to right): Syzygium cordatum, S. mamillatum and Eugenia sp.
Systematics of Syzygium (Myrtaceae)

The genus is the largest in the Myrtaceae family with 1200-1500 tree and shrub species distributed in the Old World tropics and subtropics.  While a global monograph is presently beyond the capabilities of even a well-coordinated and well-financed collaborative team, we are focused on revising several regional treatments badly in need of study. We are working with regional botanists on large scale molecular and biogeographic analyses, as well as, exhaustive herbarium and field work. Particular focus and progress has been made in revising the genus in the African-Indian Ocean region and compiling a checklist to species in the Indian subcontinent. Our current work is in the species rich Malesian region and developing an online portal for Syzygium research: Syzygium Gateway.

Map showing the distribution of Syzygium with taxonomic treatments (red) and checklists (orange) prepared, as well as areas of the genus not yet studied (blue) by our researchers.

 

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