African Violet (Saintpaulia teitensis)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 182519216
Conservation of a critically endangered African violet through the management of its pollinator diversity in Taita Hills, Kenya
African Violets (Genus: Saintpaulia) are critically endangered and endemic plant species restricted to the Eastern Arc Mountains of Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania in Africa. These plants are of great importance in horticulture mainly used as indoor ornamental plants. The plants are the most widely grown of all house plants throughout the world. Although several species have ornamental value in the wild, most have been bred to create high priced Saintpaulia hybrids.
The existence of Saintpaulia has increasingly been threatened by habitat destruction since the late nineteenth century, and is currently almost extinct from the wild. The main cause of habitat loss arises from deforestation by local communities for agricultural and settlement purposes. The removal of tree canopies exposes the fragile plants to direct sunlight resulting in desiccation that kills them. The plants grow well in shaded areas provided by the tree canopies.
In Kenya, the plants are found in Taita Hills, restricted to Mbololo that is the largest contiguous forest area in the Taita Hills massif. These hills are home to several other endemic species such as butterflies, reptiles, birds and amphibians. Wild populations of Saintpaulia grow as patches on well drained surfaces in shaded areas with high humidity, typically near soil free environments offered by rock faces. Given the unique growth aspects of Saintpaulia i.e. having a restricted range; growing in highly fragmented habitats, and remote evidence that it could be dependent on insect vectors to pollinate its flowers, understanding its pollination biology and reproductive success is vital for its conservation.
Pollination biology of Saintpaulia, especially wild types, has rarely been studied. This project aims to establish the role of pollinators in the reproductive success of Saintpaulia species endemic to Kenya and promote its conservation through habitat management.
Project 182519216 location - Kenya, Africa