Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Wendy Applequist, Ph.D.

posted on
Wendy Applequist, Ph.D.

Associate Curator
William L. Brown Center

Research Interests

• Malagasy flora
• Plant systematics
• Identification, quality control, and systematics of medicinal plants

Taxonomic revisionary study of Dombeya sect. Dombeya (Malvaceae) in Madagascar. Applequist, the current REU program PI, is an Associate Curator in MBG’s William L. Brown Center, with research interests involving medicinal plants and taxonomy of the flora of Madagascar. Dombeya is a woody genus of about 200 species. Almost 80% of species and most of the group’s morphological and genetic diversity are found in Madagascar, though some subgroups extend to continental Africa and the Mascarenes. Dombeya is ecologically important in Madagascar and useful for firewood, timber, and traditional medicine. Some species are important components of forest communities, while others are very rare, endangered local endemics. The last full revisionary treatment of this group was done by J. Arènes in 1958. The amount of herbarium material has greatly increased since then, revealing additional new species. Also, it has become obvious from modern studies of some subgroups that Arènes tended to overdescribe species, so that some “species” known only from one or a few specimens are not real. In this project, a student will examine Dombeya section Dombeya, a group currently considered to contain about seven species. The participating student will learn about the biogeography of Madagascar, study herbarium specimens and online images of types and other specimens, formulate hypotheses about how many species exist, and as time permits, identify correct names or select new names and prepare descriptions and keys. It is expected that the student will coauthor a published paper on the group.


| Categories: Plant Systematics | Tags: Malagasy Flora | Return