Parkia Biglobosa, an important multipurpose leguminous tree, found from Senegal to Cameroon, has an important genetic diversity compared with other species. However, the genetic diversity within Parkia populations is less than between populations. Last week at the Department of Plant Taxonomy Sibidou Sina, from Burkina Faso, presented a work in progress paper on his PhD research into the genetic diversity of Parkia Biglobosa. With a maximum height of 30 metres, the Parkia tree is the biggest tree in the savanna forest vegetation range and is very popular because of its products. The long pods, which grow from the numerous red flowers are a source of vitamin C and are believed to have medicinal properties. Furthermore, fermented Parkia seeds are an important source of proteins. Because of their importance and popularity Parkia trees are mostly owned by families and do not grow wild.
Unfortunately the species is endangered by drought and encroaching desertification in the region. Sina's research is part of a programme called the germ plasm conservation and improvement of Parkia Biglobosa for multipurpose use in which five countries participate. Sina explains: The next step will be to define the links between genetic diversity and morphological diversity, and to look for an efficient way of conserving the genetic diversity and improving the biological production and drought resistance."