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Thailand’s 11.000 flowering plant species

 

A scientific catalogue of Thailand’s 11.000 flowering plant species

The tropics are home to more than half of the world’s biodiversity. Yet, many tropical species have not been described scientifically, and the existing knowledge about tropical biodiversity is often widely scattered throughout the literature. Lack of easily accessible knowledge is a huge obstacle to the sustainable use of natural resources in the tropics, such as timber trees and medicinal plants. Floras gather and expand botanical knowledge, and form a fundamental basis for any effort towards sustainable use and protection of the world’s plant diversity.

Flora of Thailand is a descriptive, alpha-taxonomic research project, providing a catalogue with descriptions and keys to all of Thailand’s approximately 11.000 species of flowering plants. The project is a collaboration between Europe’s leading botanical research institutions and several institutions and universities in Thailand. The project is led by professor Henrik Balslev from Aarhus University and Dr. Kongkanda Chayamarit from Bangkok. Around 200 international taxonomic specialists contribute to the Flora.

In 2014, the project received support from the Carlsberg Foundation with a 10-year grant aimed at completing the Flora of Thailand by 2024. This grant provides an opportunity for researchers from Thailand to visit Aarhus University for significant periods of time to work on their contributions to the Flora. In 2019, 20 botanists from Thailand visited Aarhus for 1-3 months each. The project has also contributed significantly to the training of young researchers in Thailand, to an extent that more than half of the active botanical university researchers in Thailand have now been trained by the project. 

Over the years, botanists from Aarhus have conducted a series of botanical expeditions to Thailand where plant specimens have been collected all over the country. Thus, the Aarhus University Herbarium now holds more than 70.000 specimens from Thailand and surrounding countries. The expeditions continue into the future as many parts of Thailand are still botanically underexplored.