Field Mission to Senegal (August 23 – September 3, 2018)

Didier Roguet and Fred Stauffer  will be soon undertaking a field mission to Senegal (August 26 - September 3) searching for wild populations of Hyphaene thebaica. This mission will be joined by Mr. Abdoul Camara from the herbarium of the University Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar), local expert on floristics. 

Flight Iberia from Madrid to Dakar. This view shows our flight over the large Sahara

This is the original plan of itinerary, although as you will see below we could not visit the region of Bakel (road blocked), but after visiting Matam we headed on day 4 to the north-west to the region of Saint Louis

DAY 1 (Dakar)

First day of work, organizing our mission to Eastern Senegal in the region of Matam. Our colleague M. Abdoul Camara is here showing to us the herbarium of the Faculty of Sciences of the University Cheikh Anta Diop

Didier Roguet and Camara check at the specimens of the herbarium DAKAR, which is rich of 10.000 specimens

Studying the itinerary of our mission to the Matam region, eastern Senegal just in the border with Mauritania.

Group picture at the Parc Hann. The parc, right in middle of Dakar, is now supported by several garderners who spend some months of internship

Visit to the Botanical Garden of the Park of Hann, almost the only green area in whole Dakar. This garden is scientifically and technically supported by the Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Geneva with the generous funding of the North-South Cooperation program of the City of Geneva

Didier Roguet, Bachirou Gueye et M. Mané here discussing technical aspects on the new areas developed in the garden

The garden has a rich palm collection, among many other interesting plants. Some native palms include Borassus aethiopum, Elaeis guineensis and Phoenix reclinata

Juveniles of Borassus aethiopum, almost one year after planting

The amazing orange-yellow mesocarp of Borassus aethiopum is sweet and extremely fragrant

General view of the environmental center of the Park Hann. Mr. Mané hosted our visit to the site

 M. Camara leaving the brand new environmental center of the Park Hann funded by the City of Geneva

Day 2 (Surroundings of Matam to the south)

The river Senegal represents the border between Senegal and Mauritania. It is in this season at very high level.

On our way from Matam to Dolo, searching for Hyphaene thebaica, we found this amazing palm stand of Borassus aethiopum. In the same locality we found H. thebaica growing side by side with this species.

Borassus aethiopum is surprisingly not used by locals, who apparently forgot how to make baskets, hats or planks from this palm. The same phenomenom was observed for Hyphaene thebaica. Locals simply do not make use of any organ from this palm. Just behind the palm stand can be seen the Senegal river

Collecting Hyphaene thebaica with the help of a whole team. This photo was taken about 5 km south of Matam.

In the village of Dolo a ladder was needed to reach this old individual of H. thebaica

Already one good specimen for the herbarium of Geneva and the herbarium of Dakar

 Pressing our specimens of Hyphaene thebaica in the hotel Haayoo. A. Camara learns the techniques on how to section and to measure palm organs.

In the street market of Matam we were looking for objects made of Hyphaene; however, not many were spotted and when found in most cases they came from Mali. Sadly, fans are now made of plastic!!

Now couple of pearls taken by Didier, quite a skilled photographer both in colour and b/w techniques.

Amazing b/w picture that brings us pack to other times. The magic of b/w photos.

Day 3 (Surroundings of Matam in direction to the north, halfway to Podor)

Abdul Camara us here sectioning a leaf blade of H. thebaica. This collection was done on the road Matam-Thilogne

In the same locality Didier is sectioning material that is immediately silica dried and useful for the molecular phylogenetic analyses

Banks of the Senegal river. We need to cross it in order to access an interesting population of our palm. Each way costs 200 CFA.

Othe people also wanted to cross the river and we had to wait for some minutes. The man in blue is our skilled guide for the day, Mr. Sy.

Amazing population of Hyphaene thebaica in the village of Poste Baladji, a former station founded by a French man named Nicholas apparently in the early 20th century

Half of the village enjoys the way collect the palm. Botanists do not use to come to this remote region on the shores of the Senegal River

Amazing picture of a Hyphaene thebaica stand. Indeed, not many individuals were seen and in most cases they were very old. No regeneration was observed!

This is probably one of the most precious specimens collected in the frame of our whole project. Access to this locality was very difficult and we could collect the material only after long discussions of the Head of the Village "Chef du Village", that means, the most important person in the village and only one able to grant our work in the area

Very old individual of Hyphaene thebaica in the village of Poste Baladji. The inhabitants do not use this palm at all.

Beautiful view of all villagers surrounding the palm, locally known as "Guele"

Tall individuals of Hyphaene thebaica in the village of Poste Baladji. Note that no juveniles or plantlets are present in the area.

End of the day on our way to the hotel Haayoo, few km from Urosogui, on the road to Saint Louis.

Day 4 (from Matam to Saint Louis, crossing Senegal from east to west in one day!)

Dromadaires are sometimes visible from the main road, they feed on several species of Acacia.

From Linguere to Louga. In the map the road is supposed to be in good shape, in reality we had to drive on sandy roads present in parallel.

Short stop for lunch. As usual the good tin cans of sardine in oil. 

Our star driver Mr. Faye (left) and the remarkable Senegal botanist Abdul Camara (right). Good members of the "Hyphaene Team"

After a five hours drive we are now arriving to Saint Louis. We crossed entirely Senegal from East to West. The bridge depicted in this image was constructed by Eifel himself. Saint Louis is a UNESCO heritage city.

End of the day, we are now heading the hotel. We are spending two days in this city

Day 5 (from Saint Louis to Richard Toll and Ross - border to Mauritania)

Not far from Richard Toll , about one hour north of Saint Louis, we found this magnificent individual of Hyphaene thebaica

Taking notes on this palm. Abdoul Camara has supported our work throughout this mission in a very efficient way

In these area many juveniles were observed in crop areas and only very few grew in wild habitats.

As always the specimen is sectioned and measured on site. Later one in the hotel they will be pressed. The blue bag pack contains all necessary tools for a botanical collection

Coconus palms in a research area of the Agricultural Department of Senegal in the city of Saint Louis

The fishermen area of Saint Louis. This is a very crowded area where people live and work

The fishermen area as captured by Didier, another b/w pearl

Fishermen area of Saint Louis.

Fishermen basket made of leaves from Borassus aethiopum (Saint Louis)

The colonial area of Saint Louis is a World Heritage Unesco site. Before Dakar it was the capital of Senegal for more than 70 years

Day 7 (From Saint Louis to Thiès and Dakar)

Arriving to the city of Thiès there is an intereting street market proposing objects made of palms, some of them come as far as Mali!. The hadcraft is more often made of leaves from Borassus aethiopum

Beautiful display of handcrafts in the entrace of Thiès, coming from the north

Impressive palm stand of the "rônier" palm on our way to the region of Fandène. It can be seen that leaves have been harvested from some individuals. The leaves are mostly used for handcraft and construction purposes.

Brand new environmental center in the region of Fandène. This project is generously funded by the cooperation programme of the City of Geneva and scientifically and technically supported by the ethnobotanist Didier Roguet, member of the staff of the Conservatory and Botanical Garden of Geneva.

View to the garden from the roof of the environmental center. This region is very dry (even in the rainy season) and the plants need water in a regular basis. Temperatures are very high and outdoor work is done is rough conditions. The gardeners have done a great job here. Most of the plants come from the rich living collection of the Park Hann, in Dakar.

Day 7 (last day of mission: Department of Biology of the University Cheikh Anta Diop)

Abdoul and Fred separating sets of collections. One set will be kept by the herbarium DAKAR and the other will be transferred to Geneva (G). In total eight excellent collections of Hyphaene (male and female individuals) were gathered in the frame of our mission.

As usual, the last day of our missions we organise a conference in the host institution. The conference dealt with the palms of continental Africa and early results of our Hyphaene project. Students and staff of the faculty participated in this scientific seminar.

Last picture of the mission. Thanks to all the students and staff of the University, members of the Park Hann Environmental Center and members of the Environment Ministry of Senegal for all the support offered to our intensive collecting work in Senegal. Big thanks to all of you for participating in the Hyphaene project!