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Botanical exploration of the Cape Verde Islands: From the pre-Linnaean records and collections to late 18th century floristic accounts and expeditions

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This paper reviews the development of knowledge of the flora of the Cape Verde archipelago, the only portion of Macaronesia located in the tropics, from the discovery of the islands in the 15th century until the end of the 18th century. The first settlers of the islands came from Portugal and their accounts recorded that the dense forests and lush vegetation found in neighbouring regions of Africa were not present on these dry islands. Claims for John Kirckwood and Vespasien Robin collecting in the Cape Verdes during the 17th century are doubtful and it is likely that they refer to the Cape Verde promontory located in Senegal. Lotus jacobaeus (Fabaceae) is the earliest documented record for the endemic flora (year 1699). The first documented systematic plant hunting expedition was conducted by Johann R. Forster and his son George Forster during the second voyage of Captain Cook around the world. The Forsters visited Santiago on 14 August 1772, collected herbarium specimens, provided records for 39 species and described four new species based on this material. James Robertson and George Staunton also collected plant material in the Cape Verde Islands in the late 18th century. However, it was João da Silva Feijó who undertook the first extensive plant exploration of the archipelago between 1783 and 1789, under the patronage of the Portuguese government. His material was the basis for 14 new species descriptions made by Philip Barker Webb in 1849. The growth of knowledge of the Cape Verde flora contrasts markedly with that of the Canary Islands and Madeira, the floras of which were much more extensively documented by the mid-18th century.
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Keywords: AFRICA; ATLANTIC ISLANDS; BOTANICAL HISTORY; MACARONESIA; OCEANIC ISLANDS; PLANT COLLECTIONS; TROPICAL ISLANDS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Tropical Research Institute (IICT/JBT), Travessa Conde da Ribeira 9, 1300-142 Lisbon, Portugal, University of Lisbon (FCUL), BioFIG, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisbon, Portugal;, Email: [email protected] 2: Tropical Research Institute (IICT/JBT), Travessa Conde da Ribeira 9, 1300-142 Lisbon, Portugal, CIBIO, University of Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal 3: Calle Guaidil 16, Urbanización Tamarco, Tegueste, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 38280 4: Plants Division, Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K. 5: Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, University Park, Miami, Florida 33199, U.S.A., Kushlan Tropical Science Institute, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Miami, Florida 33156, U.S.A.;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 30 June 2014

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