Princess flowers (Melastomataceae) are one of the largest plant families, with over 5000 unique species known from around the world. Their morphologically diverse fruits and flowers provide important food resources for birds, insects and mammals, and numerous species have co-evolved with ants--providing specialized shelters in exchange for protection from predators. Easily recognizable by the characteristic vein pattern on their leaves, this charismatic group of trees and shrubs are a conspicuous component of most wet tropical ecosystems. New York Botanical Garden scientist and world-specialist in the Melastomataceae family, Fabian Michelangeli, has spent over a decade investigating the specialized ecological-roles, and complex evolutionary and biogeographical history of these magnificent plants. Through field-expeditions, laboratory research, and careful study of herbarium specimens, Fabian and his team of botanists are learning everything they can about how these extraordinary plants came to be, and how they are being impacted by environmental change and human activity. As citizen scientists, you can help document the shifting geographic ranges of each species in this family by transcribing preserved plant collections from the NYBG Herbarium!
Follow Fabian Michelangeli on his recent field-expedition to Peru to learn more about tropical Melastomataceae: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCHIhmoOzhM&feature=youtu.be