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Plants & Fungi

Plants and fungi are essential to life on earth—key components of the planet’s ecology, biodiversity, climate, and human cultures. The study of plants and fungi is fundamental to medical science, conservation, genetics, agriculture, food-web studies, soil science, climate studies, anthropology, and many other fields. Field Museum botanists are leaders in the study of plant and fungi evolution, ecology, biogeography, environmental/climate impact, plant-animal interactions, and more.

A glimpse of The Field Museum's Botany Department, with over 2 million specimens and a network of passionate researchers:

Plants & Fungi Collections

Neotropical Herbarium Specimens

This site will be useful for identifying families, genera or plant species in regions for which comprehensive field guides are not available, or where manuals depend on the use of technical floral or fruit characters absent in the voucher specimens. It will even be useful to paleobotanists and others with interest in comparative morphology of tropical plants.


The genus Erythroxylum, best known for the species Erythroxylum coca  L., from which commercial cocaine is derived, contains ca. 230 species of tropical trees and shrubs, of which about 180 are found in the Western Hemisphere. These neotropical species were the focus of intense systematic and ethnobotanic study by Dr. Timothy Plowman for about 15 years until his untimely death in 1989. Because of his work, the Field Museum is the most important repository in the world of research collections and literature pertaining to the classification of this important genus.


A botanical type is a specimen selected to serve as a permanent reference for a newly named species. These specimens are extremely important to the botanical community because they help researchers determine the correct application of a particular name. The herbarium of the Botany Department at The Field Museum holds approximately 33,700 vascular plant type specimens, of which about 27,000 were collected in the New World tropics.

Andean Flowering Plants

These are data on collections from Peru and our series of floristic inventories supported by National Geographic Society and National Science Foundation. Specifically, the database contains the specimen-label information from over 23,000 collections from northern Peru (Departments Amazonas, Ancash, Cajamarca, Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, San Martín). This database covers an area designated as a biodiversity hotspot and is exceptionally robust, in that the determinations of constituent records were largely provided by taxonomic experts.

Tropical Lichen Types (TROPILIT)

This database contains information on type specimens of tropical lichens, with emphasis on corticolous crustose species in the orders Arthoniales (Arthoniaceae, Roccellaceae), Dothideales (Trypetheliaceae), Pyrenulales (Pyrenulaceae), Ostropales (Graphidaceae, Porinaceae, Thelotremataceae), and Lecanorales (Lecanoraceae, Pilocarpaceae, Ramalinaceae).

Singer Index

Rolf Singer was a leading figure in mycology. He was a prolific writer and held important academic and research positions in Europe, North America and South America. He was a Research Associate in the Department of Botany, The Field Museum, from 1968-1994. Singer developed the nearly universally used classification for the Agaricales (mushrooms and related fungi) and named 86 genera, over 2460 species and infraspecies of fungi distributed in 222 genera.


Lichens occur in virtually all ecosystems, where they play an important role in water and nutrient cycles and in the vegetation succession on soil, rock, and bark surfaces. This project is the first inventory of tropical lichens on a continental scale, focusing on small epiphytic lichens. The inventory is expected to document approximately 3,000 species in 160 genera and 30 families.

Costa Rican Fungi

At present, the searchable database houses about 10,000 records of macrofungi and 20,000 records of lichens (including duplicates), distributed among F, INB, CR, USJ, NY, WIS, B, and other institutions. Data on microfungi are expected to be added soon. You can search the database for particular taxa and get data on their distribution and ecology, or you can search specific regions or sites within Costa Rica to get a list of the taxa present in the area.