Herbarium of University of Coimbra

ISIKey - Interactive Seed Identification Key

ISIKey is a project developed by the Herbarium of the University of Coimbra (COI) for easy seed identification through user-friendly tools that ease access to scientific information. The motto for the project was the Herbarium seed collection of c. 6,000 accessions, mainly of Portuguese taxa. ISIKey was initiated in 2017 with the Portuguese native flora, being expanded in 2019 to embrace the flora of the Island of Príncipe (São Tomé and Príncipe) in a partnership with the Príncipe Biosphere Reserve.

The project emphasizes the importance of seeds and their identification.

Interactive seed identification keys are being developed using the software LucID (Queensland University©). Databasing uses software SPECIFY (Kansas University©).

ISIKey for Portugal

ISIKey uses the existing Herbarium collections made as aid to Portuguese plant identification by Luís Cabral in the 1960s (2,552 accessions) and Arménio Matos in the 1970s-2000s (2,500-2,800 accessions) plus the 1,460 accessions collected in 2013 for the last Coimbra Index Seminum (1868-2013). The collection is being expanded with new material from field expeditions.


· to expand, curate and database the Coimbra Seed Collection

· to construct an interactive identification key for the seeds of the Portuguese flora


ISIKey for Portugal was initiated in 2017 with the family Lamiaceae, well represented in the Seed Collection.

In the Lamiaceae the ovary is mostly superior, deeply 4-lobed caused by the formation of false septa that almost totally separate the four carpels of the gynoecium. At fruiting stage each lobe detaches at maturity and is often referred to as nutlet. Nutlets are dry, indehiscent and monospermous. Their dorsal side is round and the ventral side has two slanted surfaces that develop against the next two nutlets. This kind of fruit is a schizocarp and it is the most common fruit type in the family, but there are also berries and drupes, all remaining in the persistent calyx. 

Lamiaceae nutlets show differences in size, shape, colour, surface ornamentation, shape of abscission scar and myxocarpy, all providing one of the best series of macrocharacters for identification in the family. 

Lamiaceae are represented in the Seed Collection by 237 accessions belonging to 72 taxa of the Portuguese native flora. Nutlet material was organised, included in glass tubes with cork tops, a barcode was added and, subsequently, it was databased. Morphological data was collected from 10 mature nutlets of each taxon and photographed using a high-performance stereomicroscope.

The interactive seed identification key for the Portuguese Lamiaceae will soon be available here. 

ISIKey for Príncipe

In 2012 UNESCO declared the Island of Príncipe a Biosphere Reserve, one of the 79 Biosphere Reserves in Africa. Being 31 million years old, Príncipe is one of the three oceanic volcanic islands of the Gulf of Guinea and the oldest of the group. The Reserve comprises the entire emerged area of the island and its various islets. 

It is part of the largest tropical forest system after the Amazonia and its biodiversity is very high.


· to construct an interactive identification key for seeds of Príncipe Biosphere Reserve flora

· to contribute to identification and conservation of Príncipe flora and its key priority species 

· to promote local involvement, science learning and environment appreciation if the island richness


The interactive identification key for seeds of the Príncipe Island will be initiated in August 2019.