Seven New Wild Coffee Species Discovered

Giant rainforest trees, tiny fungi and wild coffee plants are among almost 300 species that have been described by UK botanists for the first time in 2009.

…Seven wild coffee species also feature on the list of new species, most of which were discovered in the mountains of northern Madagascar.

Two of the plants – Coffea ambongensis and Coffea boinensis – have the largest seeds of any coffee species, whose “beans” are more than twice the size of Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), the main species used in commercial coffee production.

“Coffee is the world’s second most traded commodity, after oil, with at least 25 million farming families dependent on its production for their livelihoods,” explained RBG Kew’s coffee expert Aaron Davis.

“Yet, we still have much to learn about its wild relatives.”

Dr Davis estimated that almost three-quarters of the world’s wild coffee species were threatened, as a result of habitat loss and climate change.

“Conserving the genetic diversity within this genus has implications for the sustainability of our daily cup, particularly as coffee plantations are highly susceptible to climate change,” he added.

Professor Hopper said that, around the globe, about 2,000 species were described for the first time each year, adding that it was “vital” that these areas of botanical sciences were adequately funded and supported.

Kew Gardens has published profiles of the new species on its website, and added the information to Google Earth.

<i>Coffea ambongensis</i> "bean" (left) next to the commercially grown Arabica coffee (Image: RBG Kew)

Coffea ambongensis “bean” (left) and the commercial Arabica variety

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