Visit to the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew – January 2020

Fred Stauffer and Matteo Auger-Micou from CJBG are visiting the rich collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. The aim of this visit is to study herbarium specimens and also economic botany objects made of African palms. Our main interests focus on Hyphaene palms as well as palms from West Africa (Senegal and Gambia). Follow our visit to the collections as well as our discovery of some very exciting palms in the world wide famous palms cultivated in the celebrated greenhouses of the Kew.

First day

In the frame of our visit to the Kew herbarium Matto Auger-Micou was able to study palm specimens from Senegal and Gambia, as well as specimens from other West African countries. In the picture we can see Matteo concentrating in the identification of critical characters defining the poorly known Borassus akeasii Bayton et al.

Secondary vein characters seem to be critical to separate Borassus akeasii Bayton, from the widely spread "ronier" palm Borassus aethiopum Mart. Most of the specimens stored at K were accurately identified by Ross Bayton in the frame of his PhD project.

Second day

This day we made a great visit to the celebrated Palm House of Kew Gardens, as allways a breathtaking living collection with one of the richest displays of palms from all over the world. We also visited the Economic Botany collection of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Ben Hill greatly helped us to find all the objects we were looking for, in particular palm handcrafts made in West African countries.

Palm House at the Kew Botanic Gardens, one of the finest palm collections all over the world.

Warm and wet wheather are required to cultivated all those palms. They look amazingly healthy and apparently grow very fast.

The palm collection is more or less in a geographycal way by continent. South American and Asian palms are in particular well represented

From the top of the Palm House, a canopy pathway allows to appreciate the palm collection from above. This is a great opportunity to appreciate the palms from an aerial perspective.

Matteo discovers the beauty as well as taxonomic richness of this worlwide palm collection.

Another perspective of the Palm House of Kew Gardens.

In the Economic Botany collection Matteo was studying palm handcrafts from West Africa. In particular he found objects from Gambia.

A huge basket made of fibers from Borassus aethiopum is part of the Economic Botany collection of Kew Gardens

The ethnobotanic objects are organized by genus, but further classification may be associated to the size of the objects. Here the XXL sized collection, not only storing handcrafts but also large fragments of palm leaves or inflorescences

Amazing colection of different types of canes, made of a great variety of woods.

Fragments of mesocarps of the ginger bread palm (Hyphaene thebaica) are used in Egypt to make a refreshing drink. This product was purchased in a street market in Aswan.

Historical collection of a rope made of Hyphaene thebaica and bought in Sudan in 1863.

Sliced seeds of Hyphaene thebaica. The Economic Botany collection at Kew offered to us the opportunity to study amazing objects

Day 3

One of the very rare specimens of the extremely poorly known palm Hyphaene reptans Becc. This palm is only distributed in the Horn of Africa (Northern Kenya and Somalia) and also present in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), from where it was originally described. Out of the original material described by Odoardo Beccari, the specimens stored in the Kew herbarium are probably the only ones available for this species.

Old fruits of Hyphaene reptans Becc. collected by J.B. Gillet in Somalia in 1980. This species is extremely undercollected and requires further studies.