Documentation and Information Management Section

Inadequacy of biodiversity information has been noted to be a major impediment to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Kenya and East Africa in general. With over 1 million collections preserved in the Botanic Garden and Herbarium, the Botany department has a wealth of data awaiting discovery and synthesis to be of use in nation building; hence the creation of the Documentation and Information Management (DIM) Section, to provide leadership in the application and dissemination of information and Communication Technologies to enhance the department’s capacity in botanical information management.  

In line with the strategic direction of research at the National Museums of Kenya, the section has a mission to develop and provide a world class platform for all stakeholders interested in botanical research with state of the art reference materials and well-curated knowledge bases for national and regional posterity. Our vision is to serve as a centre of excellence in the dissemination of Botanical Information and services that will ultimately enhance decision-making in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management. The activities of the section are implemented through two programme areas:

  • East African Herbarium Library

This component of the section is closely associated with the development and management of the botanical collection and has been in existence, first under the Herbarium at Amani in Tanzania (since 1902) and later under the East Africa Community in Arusha, Tanzania. Since its acquisition by the National Museums of Kenya in 1982, the herbarium library has grown tremendously through book donations, reprints and institutional subscriptions. Current holdings stand at over 4,700 books, 7,000 Journals /periodicals and 15,000 reprints. The library also stocks maps, slides, CD-ROMs and most importantly Floras of various continents. It is consulted by a wide range of users at national, regional and global levels and is open from 8 am to 5 pm on Mondays to Fridays.

  • Development of Botanical knowledge bases

To increase access to information, emphasis is placed on digitisation of collections under various thematic areas. Initial digitization efforts have emphasized capturing data on endemic plants, environmental indicator species, medicinal and other useful plants. The main software in this area is the Botanical Research and Herbarium Management Systems (BRAHMS), which was adopted following many years of testing and feedback with the software developers at Oxford University. BRAHMS currently holds a relational database with about one hundred thousand specimen records. Each database entry includes information on where (geo-reference, with precise coordinates), when and who collected it. It also has brief descriptions on the specimens (e.g. lifeforms) and includes modules to generate, query, edit and analyze taxonomic, geographic and ecological information as well as potential uses of East African plant and fungal diversity.

The Departmental database is an important pivot-point for research that has been used to direct field excursions, produce checklists and make conservation status assessments. To fulfill its dissemination function, the section takes a lead role in exhibitions development, particularly through the institutional open Days, the departmental newsletter and webpage updates.

Past and Ongoing Projects

  • Indicator Species for Climate Change Modeling project, funded by the African Conservation Centre through the SERVIR-AFRICA project (Ongoing)
  • Regional Biodiversity Informatics Centre of Excellence Concept Development Project, funded by the JRS Biodiversity informatics Foundation (Ongoing)
  • East Africa Biodiversity Informatics Project, funded by the JRS Biodiversity Informatics Foundation (completed)
  • African Plants Initiative Project, Funded by the Melon Foundation (Completed)
  • Alien Invasive plant Species database project, funded by the BioNET-EAFRINET through the UVIMA project (Completed)

Section Staff

  • Emily Wabuyele (PhD)- Plant taxonomy (Section Coordinator)
  • Staline Kibet (MSc)- Plant Ecology/Economic botanist
  • Simon Kang’ethe (MSc)- database management and GIS analysis Brenda Nyaboke (HND)- Information management
  • Jonathan Ayayo (Dip)- Computer Programming and information management
  • Josephine Kaveke (Dip) – Library management
  • Monica Agengo (Dip)- Library management
  • Terry Nyamweya- Library management
  • Jane Barasa (Dip)- Digitisation (Intern)
  • Paul Nzioki (Dip)- Digitisation (Intern)
  • Naomi Njuguna (Dip)- Digitisation (Intern)
  • Ruth Wanyonyi (Dip)- Digitisation (Intern)

Publications

  • Kibet, S. 2011. Plant communities, species diversity, richness and regeneration of traditionally managed coastal forest, Kenya. Journal of Forest Ecology and Management 261: 949-957
  • Maundu, P., Kibet, S., Morimoto, Y., Imbumi, M. and Adeka, R. 2009. Impact of Prosopis juliflora on Kenya’s semi-arid and arid ecosystems and local livelihoods. Biodiversity, Journal of Life on Earth Vol. 10 (2 &3) 33-50
  • Kibet, S and Nyamweru, C. 2008. Cultural and Biological Heritage at Risk; The Case of the Rabai Kaya Forests in Coastal Kenya. Journal of Human Ecology Vol. 24 (4) 287-295
  • Nyamweru, C, Kibet, S., Pakia, M and Cooke, JA. 2008. The Kaya forests of coastal Kenya, ‘Remnant patches’ or Dynamic Entities? In: Sheridan, M and Nyamweru, C.K. (editors) African Sacred Groves: Ecological Dynamics and Social Change. James Currey Publishers, UK.
  • Kariuki, P and Kibet, S. 2008. Building Capacity for Community-based Conservation of Medicinal Plants in Kenya. In: Hamilton, A.C (ed) Medicinal Plants Conservation and Development: Case Studies and Lessons Learnt. Plantlife International, Salisbury, UK.
  • Wabuyele, E. & Nordal, I. 2010. The development of species level taxonomy in Eastern Africa from the ‘Flora of Tropical Africa’ to the present day – ideas and methods used. In: X. van der Burgt, J. van der Maesen & J.-M Onana (eds), systematic and Conservation of African Plants, pp. 579-584. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Wabuyele, E. & Kyalo S. 2008. Sustainable Use of East African Aloes: The case of Commercial Aloes in Kenya. Published online at www.conabio.gob.mx
  • Wabuyele, E. Sebsebe Demissew, Grayer, R. Newton, L. E. , Nordal, I 2008. The maculate Aloe complex (series Saponariae Berger) in Eastern Africa. Discovery and Innovation Journal 19(2): 263-275
  • Wabuyele, E. 2006. Aloe kilifiensis (Aloaceae) newly recorded for Tanzania. Journal of the East African Natural History Society 95(2): 227-229
  • Wabuyele, E., Bjorå C. S., Nordal, I. & Newton L. E. 2006. Distribution, diversity and conservation of the genus Aloe in Kenya. Journal of the East African Natural History Society 95(2): 213-225
  • Mukonyi, K. W., Owuor, B., Chikamai, B. N. & Wabuyele, E. 2008. The status of Aloe exploitation, conservation and its contribution to communities’ livelihoods in Kenyan drylands: Discovery and Innovation 19(2):231-241

Theses and Technical Reports

  • Kibet, S and Oyieke, H. 2009. Possible Integration of Traditional Knowledge, Gender Role and Beliefs in Modern Conservation. A commissioned Study for Research Programme on Sustainable Use of Dryland Biodiversity (RPSUD), National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
  • Kariuki, P and Kibet, S, 2007. Medicinal Plants traded in Kenya. Market survey report for Nairobi, Nyanza and Mombasa. http://idl-bnc.idrc.ca/dspace/handle/10625/42127
  • Kibet, S, Guyo, H and Lentoror, E, 2007: Ethnobotanical Knowledge: Its Implications to Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Plants. A case Study of Rendille and Ariaal Communities of Marsabit District. Report Submitted to Indigenous Vegetation Project –UNEP/UNDP/NEMA
  • Kibet, S and Situma E, 2007: Traditional Ecological and Ethnobotanical Knowledge among the Turkana People. Technical Report Submitted to Kimetrica Co. Limited, Nairobi.
  • Nyamwamu, B, Shiundu, K and Kibet, S. 2005: Field Report on Indigenous Knowledge on Traditional foods in Siaya and Butere Districts, Western Kenya. African Wild Harvest Report.
  • Kioko, E; Ogada, M and Kibet, S, 2009. Tools and Products in Taxonomy. Technical Report submitted to EAFRINET/BioNET International for UVIMA Project. http://eafrinet.museums.or.ke/KenyaDraft.pdf
  • Kibet, S. 2002 Human Disturbance and its Impact on Vegetation Structure, Composition and Regeneration of Kenya Coastal Forests (A Case Study of Kaya Mudzimuvya Forest). MSc Thesis submitted to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
  • Musila W., Githiru M., Kanga M.E, Warui, C., Malonza P., Njoroge P., Gikungu M., Mbau J., Nyingi D., Malombe I., Kibet S. and Nyaga J. 2009. Mt. Kenya Forest Biodiversity Assessment Technical Report. Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi
  • Wabuyele, E. 2006. Studies on Eastern African aloes: aspects of taxonomy, conservation and ethnobotany. Desertation submitted to the faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Oslo
  • Wabuyele, E. 2000. A systematic study of the relationship between Aloe macrocarpa and Aloe lateritia (Aloaceae) MSc. thesis presented to the School of Postgraduate studies, Addis Ababa University

Education Section

The section disseminates well-packaged botanical information to researchers, students and other visitors. Our main clientele are students from tertiary colleges such as technical institutions and universities. One major activity is to organize hands on training for students on attachment as well as giving specialized (botanic) talks to visiting students. Courses such as herbarium techniques, plant conservation and information management are offered to organized groups e.g. staff from other research institutions and Community Based Organizations (CBOs).

We welcome students for attachment on a competitive basis for a period of three months only. Prospective students are required to apply for attachment through the human resource (HR). On reporting, the students go through an intensive programme designed to cover all botanical aspects. A detailed attachment report should be submitted to section head before the student get a recommendation letter.

Herbarium Section

Being one of the oldest research units, the East African Herbarium maintains the largest botanical collection in tropical Africa. Presently holding more than 700,000 plant specimens and accompanying field notes it acts as a major regional as well as national reference centre. Research is primarily focused on the taxonomy, distribution, use and conservation of East African plants. Investigation in plant use and distribution has been generally project based with the Indigenous Food Plants Programme and the Coastal Forest Survey being examples of the former and latter respectively. The extensive library collection housed in the department is an indispensable research source.

The Herbarium’s plant identification service is extensively used by local and international researchers as well as by interested members of the public.

In 1992, the Plant Conservation and Propagation Unit was established within the Herbarium for the express purpose of ensuring the survival and proliferation of threatened and endemic flora. The unit is involved in maintenance of seed collections, duplication of accessions for long term storage and vegetation propagation through tissue culture. The greenhouses near the snake park are managed under the auspices of the unit.

The herbarium offers training courses in plant conservation and herbarium techniques.

To learn more visit East African Herbarium

Mycology Section

The section’s main focus is to study, document and preserve information on Kenya’s fungi and lichen diversity as well as maintain a reference research collection at the East African Herbarium. Apart from conducting research, we are involved in training on systematics, ecology and conservation of fungi including lichens. The section also promotes the utilization of fungi as food resource by providing farmers with mushroom spawn and training them on how to cultivate them. Presently, the focus of our research is on macro-fungi (mainly mushrooms), mycorrhizal fungi, ascomycete fungi and lichens.

Collections

Currently there are over 5,000 specimens comprising Basidiomycota (mushrooms), Ascomycota (sac fungi), arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and lichens preserved at the East African Herbarium. This collection is growing rapidly with over 1000 specimens having been collected in the last one year.

Research

  1. Mycorrhizal research

Mycology section has expertise and extensive skills in Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF). The research carried out aims to establish the taxonomy and ecological role of the AMF on the natural and agricultural ecosystems. In this regard we have largely focused our research on;

  • Documenting the diversity of AMF in both agricultural and natural ecosystems.
  • Generation and preservation of reference research collection of mycorrhizal fungi and germplasm for use on research in agriculture, forestry and restoration of degraded habitats.
  • Assessment of the ecological role of mycorrhizal fungi with specific interest on their significance in agriculture and forestry. 

2. Ascomycota (sac fungi) research

Studies have entailed diversity, ecology and evolution of saprophytic ascomycete fungi. This undertaking has resulted in the development of the first of its kind research collection on this group in the country and the region. We employ modern tools of research including the use of DNA sequences to resolve taxonomic problems within this group. Over 20 new taxa have been named and described by scientists in the section in the past few years. Research into this group thus concentrates on the following:

  • Document the diversity and preserve information on ascomycete fungi of Kenya
  • Use DNA sequence data to generate phylogenies and hence assess the validity of previously used morphology based classification.
  • Study the distribution pattern and ecology of saprotrophic ascomycete fungi in Kenya.

3. Lichen research

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungal and a photosynthetic partner living in a symbiotic association. The photosynthetic partner is in most cases green algae or rarely blue-green algae. Documentation of the diversity and research into this group has gathered pace in the past two years and research collection is rapidly growing. Plan to produce the first field guide for lichens of mount Kenya is in progress. Work in this group focuses on:

  • Document the diversity and preserve information including reference collection on lichens of Kenya
  • Long-term monitoring of lichen species distribution (especially in montane forest areas) to assess the effect of global warming on the biodiversity- lichens as indicator species
  • Ecological studies to assess the correlation of plant species distribution and lichen diversity

4. Basidiomycota (Mushroom) research

The section has been involved in the documentation of mushroom of Kenya as well as promoting the cultivation of the edible fungi. The section has one of the leading laboratories in the production and supply of high quality mushroom spawn in the country. We provide the local farmers throughout Kenya with quality spawn of target species upon request.

Sites and insights into NBG’s Thematic Displays

A lesson in history

On the morning of 6 August 1945, the ‘Enola Gay’, dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The heat from the bomb is said to have been so intense that some people simply vanished in the explosion. Many died and more are still suffering the effects of radiation sickness. This they say is history. The Memorial garden is dedicated to the memory of the men and women who died in the 2nd world war. The plantings in this garden include some common culinary herbs such as ‘Rosemary’, remember?

The tree, the forest

What has a tree done for you? This question lingers as you walk through the Wooded garden. Appreciate the woody plants which give character and form to our landscape. In this low density mixed forest, there are many indigenous trees for timber, medicine, agroforestry, landscaping and more.

Spiral of life

The medicinal herb garden, dubbed the ‘healthy herby’ showcases some of Kenya’s indigenous food and medicinal plants. Learn about them, grow some and help conserve them for posterity.

Grass the forgotten flower

The Grass garden showcases important grasses in the landscape and in daily living. Grasses are monocots with lance-shaped leaves, arranged alternately on a hollow, jointed stem. In addition, grasses have fibrous root systems and their leaves and stem have parallel veins. Grasses grow in different habitats and are the world’s most common plant, covering about 30% of the land area!

Orchid house and the plant house

Orchidaceae is a large, diverse family of flowering plants. The plant family name, “Orchis” derives from the Greek word for testicle, referring to their enlarged roots or bulbs. The popularity of orchids is attributed to a few members, mainly those with beautiful, showy, or ‘strange’ flowers and those that are economically important. Historically, orchids feature in legends, magic, love and religious ceremonies. The NBG orchids are the most comprehensive collection of Kenyan orchids. Book a tour of the Orchid house and plant display house to appreciate their charming flowers and unique habitats.

The forest returns

The New Nairobi forest display is reminiscent of the forest structure and composition of Nairobi city before 1900. It is dominated by plants of the Upland dry forest, the riverine vegetation and the Acacia woodlands. This display of indigenous plants of Nairobi allows visitors to learn more about the landscape history of the city.

Get water wise

Succulents are hardy plants that store and save water for later use. They thrive in places where there is very little water. These plants make beautiful drought-proof gardens that flower throughout the year. Succulents also have many ecological roles for example they provide nectar to honeybees and sunbirds. In Kenya, there are about 350 succulent plant species and some 180 species are growing here.

The mini biosphere

The pond is the main feature in the Quarry garden. It supports a variety of water plants and is a haven for wildlife including insects, fish, birds and frogs. This mini biosphere is fascinating to watch.

Dinosaur’s Breakfast

Cycads are the planet’s oldest seed-bearing plants. They are unique and an integral part of the tropical world’s biodiversity as well as its heritage. These plants have outlived the dinosaurs and have been part of some remarkable transitions in climate and ecology. Like the dinosaur, they are now threatened with extinction. The Cycads are venerable in the botanic garden.

Children’s garden

Visit the children’s garden for a lesson on plant-animal interactions. The planting scheme has a mixture of indigenous and exotic plants, for a variable flowering cycle, while the open lawn provides space for learning and playing.

The plant nursery

The garden propagates some rare, endangered and indigenous plant species. Buy some and grow them on your own land, to help conserve them.Pending projects Shamba/Chakula Threatened plants Nursery Phase I and Phase II Path Network Commercial Center Compost Area Wetland Community.

Botanic Garden Section

Nairobi Botanic Garden

The garden is situated 1.5 kilometers from Nairobi city centre, at the Nairobi Museum ground. As a living collection, it enhances outdoor learning, using live plants. The garden is laid out in thematic displays. The themes integrate Kenya’s natural, historical and cultural heritage with plants and habitat displays.

The garden fulfils four main functions; education, research, conservation and recreation. Currently, the garden is home to some 600 indigenous and 100 exotic plant species and cultivars growing in 11 of the proposed 16 thematic displays. With its picturesque landscape, beauty, serenity and indigenous plants, it is a haven for biodiversity.

Visitor information

Visit the Nairobi Botanic Garden and learn about plants, their uses, names, habitats, adaptations, and their interactions with the environment, animals and much more. Groups can make bookings through the NMK Education department. Also, the garden hosts special international and national events and exhibitions.

Events

  • World Biodiversity day
  • World Environment day
  • National tree planting
  • International museums day

Education and Outreach

NBG promotes environmental education and supports plant sciences including; breeding, plant adaptation, ecology, ethno and economic botany, taxonomy and biodiversity conservation. The garden provides guided tours for the public, groups, school-outdoor classes, specialized demonstration classes and also supports outreach programmes for public institutions.

Research and Conservation

NBG promotes conservation through cultivation. The garden supports research and collaborates with other research and educational institutions including, museums, research departments and individuals. NBG research interests include taxonomy and conservation. These groups include Orchids, rare and endangered plants, landscape plants, medicinal herbs, succulents, wild food plants, grasses, Cycads and indigenous trees. To support these programmes, the garden propagates and sells seedlings at the nursery, maintains species on display and provides relevant information about these plants. In addition, the garden supports habitat restoration with partners around the country.

Venue hire

The garden has lawns and open spaces for use by the visiting public. For private events, theatre, parties, photo sessions, leisure activities, group meetings etc, contact NMK marketing for more information.

Support Us

Nairobi Botanic garden’s main source of financial support is from the government, grant-making institutions and individual sponsors, sale of nursery plants and letting the Garden as a venue for events. With your support, we can organize more quality events and lectures, develop educational activities, and provide even better information, research and services at the Garden.

To date we have had support from the Finland Embassy in Nairobi, Netherlands embassy in Nairobi, DFID, Brooke Bond Kenya, TOTAL Kenya, GEF, Kenya Horticultural Society, Kenya Museum Society, Kenya Orchids Society, DFID, BCC, RELMA-ICRAF, Succulenta EA, Donations to the Garden in cash or kind are always welcome.

A corporate link with the Garden provides unique opportunities for you to reach your clients and enhance your brand profile. The garden can host events, engage your staff and help you sustain the Corporate Social Responsibilities of your company. Your help counts.

For information on current needs, please contact us through: botany@museums.or.ke. Also, see the list of pending projects in need of funding.

Contact us

The Manager,
Nairobi Botanic Garden, P.O. Box 40658-00100 GPO, Nairobi, Kenya Email: botany@museums.or.ke (Attn: Botanic Gardens Manager) Fax: 254-20-3741424 Tel: 254 20 4448930/3, 254 20 3742131/4

Website: www.museums.or.ke