Welcome to Burmanniaceae.org. This website is dedicated to our research on the fascinating members of the plant family Burmanniaceae: tiny and extremely rare beauties of the tropical rain-forests. Our mission is to discover and understand these poorly known plants and learn more about their evolutionary relationships.
New site in the works!
After more than three years, this site has become somewhat outdated. Therefore I am working on a new and improved website with more information and more pictures. The new site will will not only focus on Burmanniaceae but on all myco-heterotrophic plant families. Stay tuned!
Vincent Merckx | January 13, 2009
Biogeography of Burmanniaceae
When did Burmanniaceae conquer the world? And how did they cross the Atlantic? Read about our hypothesis on Burmanniaceae diversification in BMC Evolutionary Biology!
Vincent Merckx | June 23, 2008
PhD finished - Research continues
On Friday the 9th of May I successfully defended my PhD-thesis 'Myco-heterotrophy in Dioscoreales: systematics and evolution'. Find the full text here [pdf; 8.7 MB]. And now something completely different? Not at all! I will continue my research on these fascinating plants and in August I will be in French Guiana again for some more exploration. Also, I am proud to announce that I obtained a BAEF grant for a one-year postdoc position at the Bruns Lab (University of California, Berkeley).
Vincent Merckx | May 23, 2008
Afrothismia in the press, again!
The results of my paper with Martin Bidartondo are featured in Knack magazine. The Afrothismia picture also made the cover of Proc. R. Soc. B !
Vincent Merckx | April 05, 2008
Afrothismia paper published
I am very pleased to announce that the work of dr. Martin Bidartondo and myself on the coevolution between Afrothismia and their mycorrhizal fungi is published in Proc. R. Soc. B. Find it here. Moreover, our paper got featured on the first page of the science section of De Standaard, one of the most popular newspapers in Flanders.
Vincent Merckx | February 14, 2008
While I am currently quite busy finishing some exciting Burmanniaceae-related papers - stay tuned! - I am very proud to announce that the non-profit organisation 'Biodiversity Inventory for Conservation' has officially launched. About a year ago some friends and I discovered that we not only share a similar passion - nature exploration and scientific research - but also have the same dream: starting a scientific organisation that focusses on the inventory of the earths threatened biodiversity. One year further and with some projects running our dream has become reality. Learn all about it on our website: www.binco.eu.
Vincent Merckx | October 28, 2007
Growing Afrothismia in Belgium
On my return from Cameroon I took a few living specimens of Afrothismia foertheriana with me. I didn't expect to keep them alive for a long time, but to my surprise they are still alive and kicking. I am growing them in a small glass bottle together with some green weeds. Afrothismia will not be the next hype among plant enthousiasts: their brown rhizomes are hardly noticeable between rotting leaves. But they are certainly a bontanical rarity: without any doubt I am the only person in the world who is growing a member of the Thismiaceae! Until the plants leave the building of course... Below is a (bad quality) picture of one of the beauties. For the non-specialists: the plant is located in the very centre of the picture and looks like a ball of mud with some roots sticking out.
Vincent Merckx | January 27, 2007
First results published
We are proud to announce our first paper on the phylogeny of Burmanniaceae in American Journal of Botany. Find it here.
Vincent Merckx | November 23, 2006
Exploration in West Africa
The collection trip in Cameroon was not only a botanical succes, it was also a very adventurous experience! We collected 9 different Burmanniaceae species (5 Afrothismia species!), two Triuridaceae, and one myco-heterotrophic Gentianaceae species. The expedition was a succes thanks to Sainge Moses, one of the best and most entertaining botanists of Africa, and Marcus Etonge, who can drive a 4x4 like no one can. I have posted some pictures of the trip on a separate page.
Vincent Merckx | October 20, 2006
Next stop: Cameroon
Together with Dr. Stephan Imhof, a german specialist in myco-heterotrophic plants, I am planning a field trip to Cameroon. In many aspects Cameroon is the walhalla for myco-heterotrophic plant researchers: strange Burmanniaceae, Gentianaceae, Orchidaceae and Triuridaceae have been discovered here over the years. The trip is planned for September and we will try to visit sites on Mt. Cameroon, Mt. Kupe and in Korup National Park. Our special attention will go to the genus Afrothismia. Many new species of this interesting Burmanniaceae genus have been discovered a few years ago in Cameroon by Thassilo Franke and Sainge Moses. With the help of Sainge Moses (and Thassilo at home), we will try to relocate and collect those species in order to improve our current Thismiaceae sampling.
Vincent Merckx | March 21, 2006
Tiputinia, a new Burmanniaceae genus from Ecuador
A remarkable plant was discovered near Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Amazonian Ecuador almost a year ago. A new Burmanniaceae genus, Tiputinia, had to be created to describe this peculiar specimen. Before you go searching for it: only a single individual has been found... See the pictures of Tiputinia foetida here!
Vincent Merckx | January 26, 2006
Expedition movie available!
During our expedition in French Guiana and Guyana I filmed a lot of our adventures. These images where compiled into a 70 min movie (16:9). If you are interested to see our hunt for Burmanniaceae in the tropical rainforests of South America, contact me and I'll send you a DVD. A short trailer can be seen here.
Vincent Merckx | November 8, 2005
Meeting about saprophytes in Utrecht
This Friday (11th November) we organise a meeting about Burmanniaceae in Utrecht. We are really looking forward to meet Mr. Thassilo Franke and his wife and Prof. Dianxiang Zhang. Thassilo is a specialist in African Burmanniaceae and his wife is a mycologist. Prof. Zhang is known for his work on the genus Burmannia. During this meeting we will talk about our ongoing research and we will discuss possible future collaborations.
Vincent Merckx | November 7, 2005
Burmanniaceae expedition succesful!
Our expedition to French Guiana and Guyana turned out to be successful. We made numerous collections of ten different Burmanniaceae species (of the genera Apteria, Burmannia, Dictyostega, Gymnosiphon and Hexapterella). One of the highlights was probably the discovery of Gymnosiphon capitatus on 'roche la Virginie' in French Guiana. This species is known from only three previous collections in Brazil and Guyana. In addition to Burmanniaceae we also collected some myco-heterotrophic Gentianaceae, Triuridaceae and Orchidaceae. Please contact us if you are interested in those samples. In the mean time we also received some new specimens (Thismia panamensis, Haplothismia exannulata and Burmannia itoana) from some of our contacts. Many thanks! All these samples will be sequenced and added to our current database.
Vincent Merckx | September 05, 2005
On Monday Paul, Hiltje, Peter and myself will take the plane from Paris to Cayenne, where we will teamup with Joep Moonen our host in French Guiana. Joep runs the Emerald Jungle Village, a tropical nature centre about 25 km from Cayenne. The following weeks we will make trips to Mt. Matoury, Trésor, Oiapoque (Brazil), Paracou and St. Elie. The team will then travel to Guyana to search for saprophytes at Mabura and Iwokrama.
Our adventures can be followed on our blog.
Vincent Merckx | July 29, 2005
Download the poster that was presented at the IBC in Vienna here.
Vincent Merckx | July 28, 2005
Burmanniaceae research group prepares expedition
At the moment preparations are being made for a Burmanniaceae expedition to South America! This summer the entire team (Paul, Hiltje, Vincent and Peter) will go hunting for Burmanniaceae in French Guyana and Guyana. This offers us a unique opportunity to observe and photograph Burmanniaceae in their natural habitat and to collect extra specimens for our research. The expedition is planned from 1 to 31 August, just after the long rainy period when chances of finding these myco-heterotrophic rarities should be maximal. During our stay in French Guyana and Guyana we will explore specific selected sites where Burmanniaceae were collected before and we will also undertake searches at new sites near the Brazilian border. We would like to thank our generous sponsor, Michel De Bont, for making this dream possible. We hope to post more details here soon.
Vincent Merckx | February 05, 2005
Preliminary results at IBC in Vienna
We will present our first results on the phylogeny of Burmanniaceae on a poster at the International Botanical Congress in Vienna (17-23 July). This poster contains a phylogeny of Burmanniaceae based on 18S rDNA sequences and will be available for download at this website after the congress.
Vincent Merckx | February 05, 2005