Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Wendy Applequist, Ph.D.

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Associate Curator
William L. Brown Center

Research Interests

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

Taxonomic studies of Casearia sect. Casearia (Salicaceae) in Madagascar. Applequist, the current REU program PI, is an Associate Scientist in MBG’s William L. Brown Center, with research interests involving medicinal plants and taxonomy of the flora of Madagascar. Casearia is a woody genus that is widespread in the tropics. The most recent revision of Malagasy species (from the early 1970s) wrongly lumped all five previously recognized species into one due to their similar tiny flowers. Since much new material has been collected in recent decades, there is now no usable treatment of the genus in Madagascar. Previous REU participants have identified and described a few new small-leaved species, but the C. nigrescens/C. elliptica complex remains a challenging problem, including multiple species that may require quantitative analysis of leaf morphology to resolve. 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, select new names for previously unrecognized taxa and prepare descriptions and keys. It is expected that the student will coauthor a published paper on the group.


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