[Science news] -Revision of the genus Psychotria (Rubiaceae) in West and Central Africa

Mon 25 Mar

Meise Botanic Garden recently published a major contribution to the study of the African flora, on the West and Central African species of Psychotria. There are several hundred Psychotria species in tropical areas worldwide. They are very diverse, ranging from low creeping herbs to medium-sized trees, although most are shrubs. They are often dominant in rainforest undergrowth, and as many are sensitive to habitat degradation, they are good indicators of forest quality.

Some show remarkable adaptations, such as bacterial leaf symbiosis, litter-gathering, or flagelliflory (where flowers are borne on hanging, whip-like stems).

Olivier Lachenaud, researcher at Meise Botanic Garden, has studied Psychotria species for 14 years, both in European herbaria and in the field in Africa. His work, published in Opera Botanica Belgica, is the first regional treatment of the genus since the 1960s, and presents current knowledge on the taxonomy, morphology, ecology, distribution, and local names and uses of the species. All 240 Psychotria species known from West and Central Africa are covered, 85 of which are new to science. All are described, with distribution maps and black-and-white illustrations. Most also have colour photographs.

This work will be of great help to botanists in the region, and will hopefully stimulate interest in the study and conservation of these plants, about which much remains to be discovered.