Category: Blog


Published: December 22, 2011

Inga overhaul

Nancy Hensold, Tropical Plant Scientist, Keller Science Action Center


Inga is an important genus of Neotropical trees in the legume family. It was monographed by Terence Pennington in 1997 (The Genus Inga: Botany), who recognized 252 named species. He also cited an additional 50 species he considered not well enough known yet to describe.

Prior to 2010, we had about 109 species (750 specimens) of Inga represented in our database, or about 43% of all known species. I checked the Museum's South American material of this genus against Pennington's monograph, and also made a quick run through the Central American material.
We will soon have a total of 201 species (962 specimens) scanned, or about 80% of those recognized by Pennington.

We also have beefed up the scans for existing species to include good flowering and fruiting material, variations in leaf size and pubescence, etc. In many cases, without curation of the existing Museum material, we would have no material or scanty material identified under the current name. This happens when specialists abroad don't have a chance to study our material. Fortunately, they often study duplicates of specimens we have and will cite them in their work.

The taxonomy of Inga is still controversial, and some specialists consider Pennington's concepts too broad, so we'll keep looking for future published updates.

See for example:
Romero, Carolina. 2005. Revision de las especies colombianas de Inga sección Pseudinga. In: Forero, E. & Romero, C. Estudios en leguminosas colombianas. (I.)
Sousa, Mario. 2003. An index for the tree species of the family Leguminosae in Mexico. Harvard Pap. Bot. 7: 381-398.


Nancy Hensold
Tropical Plant Scientist, Keller Science Action Center

Nancy processes and identifies Neotropical vascular plant collections, in conjunction with the Action Center's Rapid Biological Inventories in South America. She also maintains the Neotropical Herbarium Specimens website, a plant identification tool for non-specialists, and pursues original research on tropical Pipeworts (Eriocaulaceae).