São Tomé and Príncipe (STP) is one of the most interesting biodiversity hotspots in the Gulf of Guinea, with a large percentage of endemisms.
The Herbarium of the University of Coimbra has one of the main flora collections from the archipelago since the 19th century, many of which were the very first specimens collected of their species. This important collection contains precious information on the rich plant diversity of São Tomé and Príncipe, that will be made public for the first time with this transcription project.
Photo: "Ikabanga - 1088 - São Tomé and Príncipe" - Thecacoris manniana (Müll.Arg.) Müll.Arg. Collected in Sao Tome and Principe by Lewis Eduardo (licensed under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)
The mint family includes aromatic plants widely used since ancient times. Many are used in the kitchen, others are ornamentals, and some are used in cosmetics and as medicines, the most common being basil, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme. The sweet aromatic smell is due to essential oils in glandular hairs present in most parts of the plant, but mainly the leaves.
Family of major economic importance not only for its fruits but also for its ornamentals. Well-known edible fruits are very variable being drups (fleshy with a stone) as in apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, plums, prune, almond; pomes as in apple, quince, pear, loquat; aggregates (with free carpels) as in blackberry, raspberry, strawberry. The beautiful tree Prunus lusitanica is widely planted as a hedge as are Spiraea, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Crataegus and some others. Rosa is the best-known ornamental species and there are many thousand hybrids and cultivars. Rose perfumes are made from rose oil, a mixture of essential oils obtained by steam distilling the crushed petals.
Saxifragaceae are plants primarily in the northern hemisphere, from the Arctic to temperate zones. Interestingly, they are also found in the tropical mountains. The family's center of diversity is in eastern North America, east Asia and the Himalayas. They are generally perennial herbaceous with mostly basal and often succulent leaves. The flowers, although small, are numerous, and several species are cultivated as ornamental.
More than 60 plant families have succulents. But some of those are dominantly succulent, such as the Crassulaceae (lat. crassus = thick, fat) with thick, fleshy stems and leaves due to special water-storage tissues.
Guinea-Bissau is a small tropical country (2.5 times smaller than Portugal) more than 20% of its territory being occupied by water. Mangroves thrive along the coast and river banks. There are also areas of rice paddies, sub-humid and dry forests, and inland savannas. Here, grasses play an important role. Those grasses that develop in the salty areas, with soil saturated with salt, where few species can survive, are also of major ecological importance.
The wood of a leguminous tree native to the Brazilian Atlantic Forest (Paubrasilia echinata) was used early on for dyeing fabrics and became known in Europe as brazilwood. These lands, initially named Vera Cruz, became named after this plant, Brazil.
Fabaceae, or Leguminosae, is one of the families with the greatest diversity and it is the most diverse in Brazil. In this country there are c. 200 genera and 2800 species native belonging to this plant group with wide economic importance.
Can you help us to find out the missing information about these specimens?
Every record lacks some information, and in many cases, you must be a real detective to find out from the few clues the specimens contain!
There are c. 12 genera of carnivorous plants, but only four are found in Portugal, Drosera, Drosophyllum, Pinguicula, and Utricularia.
Get to know them by transcribing the information on the labels of herbarium specimens of the University of Coimbra.
Photo by Filipe Covelo