New species in the Flora of Somalia
Somalia is situated in Northeast Africa. The plants of this country have remained more or less unknown to science for a long time. During the years 1988 to 2006 a first Flora of Somalia was produced in a project led by Mats Thulin at Uppsala University. It was published in four volumes and comprises a total of nearly 3200 species, about 800 of which are not known anywhere else. During the course of the project, 400 species of plants new to science have been described.
Linnaeus sent his pupils to all corners of the world, but none of them travelled to Somalia. It would last until 64 years after Linnaeus’ death before the first plant specimen was collected from Somalia, and the first attempt to a list of the plants in the country was not compiled until late in the 20th century.
Somalia is an arid country with much semi-desert vegetation and vast plains, but there are also beautiful mountains and endless sea-shores. In any case, there is a rich flora with many interesting plants, many of which with vernacular names in Somali. The most famous plants of the country are the myrrh and frankincense trees, from which resin has been collected and used as medicine or incense for thousands of years. The scientists who worked with the flora have been able to show which the tree species are that produce myrrh and incense and in which parts of the country they grow.
Until recently, it was mostly foreign scientists who explored the plant world of Somalia, but through the Flora project and other projects, also Somali botanists have been trained. Since long, it has been difficult to work and travel in Somalia, but the botanical work continues. Still, new species of plants are described from the country every year.