Comparative seed biology and the conservation of Central African orchids in Cameroon

Durée : 2015 - 2016
Programme : National Geographic
Portée : Internationale
Angraecoid orchid
Central African rainforest
IUCN conservation status
Seed bank

Orchidaceae is the largest plant family in the world with c. 10% of the world vascular plant diversity and 6% of the flora of tropical Africa. Its species form associations with insect pollinators and fungi, thereby contributing to a functioning ecosystem. However, with tropical rainforests of Central Africa disappearing at an alarming rate we need to urgently address orchid conservation. Drawing on the extensive field surveys conducted by our teams in Central Africa which have collected and cultivated >300 African orchid species across a regional network of plant shadehouses (, we propose to use these unique collections to establish in Cameroon an orchid comparative seed biology initiative to underpin the establishment of the first (non-agricultural) seed bank in tropical Africa.
In the present project, we will document the viability (vital staining) and storage capability of seeds of 25% of the orchid diversity of Central Africa (about 150 species), particularly the more threatened species. A duplicate collection of seeds produced from plants assisted pollinated in the shadehouse will be conserved in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, which is the largest, back-up ex situ seed collection for plant conservation in the world. Associated data collected during the project will serve to update the IUCN conservation status of African orchids and to advance understanding of the seed biology of 150 African orchid species. The results will be disseminated through scientific and popular papers, our website dedicated to Central African orchids ( and other portals related to orchid (e.g. Kew's and biodiversity conservation (


  • Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG)
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK)
  • Université de Yaoundé 1 (Cameroun)