Cuc Phuong Plant Altas

Cuc Phuong National Park is a 20,480-hectare (Vo et al., 1996) forest-covered hilly limestone formation located about 100 km southwest of Hanoi, Vietnam. The greater portion of forest cover on this tract of land is of evergreen, broadleaf tropical rain forest. In 1998, an international collaborative effort was initiated to inventory the seed plants of this park, as one of the specific aims of an International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG) program based at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) (Soejarto et al., 1999). This inventory effort was necessary, because the existing catalogues of plants of this park (Anonymous, 1971, 1992, 1996, 1997; Nguyen Nghia Thin, 1997) merely list plant names (Latin binomials), without reference to any herbarium specimens. Documentation is crucial, since it would allow verification of names should questions arise regarding taxonomic identification of listed species. According to these catalogues, close to 2,000 plant species are found in the park, of which about 1,700 comprise the flowering plants. This inventory task falls under the responsibility of Associate Program 1, one of the five Associate Program components of the UIC ICBG.

One goal of the UIC ICBG is to produce a documented Checklist of the seed plants of this national park. Such a database would provide scientists and other users who have interest in plants of Cuc Phuong National Park, and of Vietnam in general, with a comprehensive searchable database of the seed plants found in the park. Since only a few species of gymnosperms are found growing in this park, the bulk of the database comprises the angiosperms (flowering plants).

Only the seed plants, but specifically, the flowering plants, were chosen for study, because (1) the flowering plants represent the bulk of the floristic component of the vegetation of the park, (2) this plant group represents the most important source of plant-derived drugs in clinical use worldwide, and, in the context of rationale #2, (3) the discovery of bioactive compounds from plants of Cuc Phuong National Park is one of the three goals of the UIC ICBG (also referred to as Vietnam-Laos ICBG).

Project (new) collections

In collecting new herbarium specimens, either for purposes of inventory, as well as for providing voucher herbarium documentation of samples collected for drug screening, standard botanical collecting methods are used. Both samples and herbarium specimens are dried at the Herbarium of the Cuc Phuong National Park, following methods already published (Soejarto, 1993; Soejarto et al., 1996), and duplicate specimens are distributed to the following herbaria: CPNP (Herbarium of the Cuc Phuong National Park, Nho Quan, Ninh Binh), HN (Herbarium of the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources/IEBR, National Center for Science and Technology, Hanoi), HNU (Herbarium of the Vietnam National University, Hanoi), F (Herbarium of the Field Museum, Chicago), and P (Herbarium of the Laboratoire de Phanerogamie, National Museum of Natural History, Paris).

Taxonomic determination of specimens collected is performed initially at CPNP, but the major effort takes place at IEBR, with the cooperation of staff taxonomists of this institution. Taxonomic identification is also undertaken at F. Additionally, the cooperation of taxonomic specialists from other foreign institutions is also sought in the identification process.

Historical collections

In addition to the new collections, more than 5,000 herbarium collections (referred to as existing/historical collections) were already deposited at the Herbarium of the Cuc Phuong National Park when the inventory work was initiated. These are collections made in the park, starting early in 1960's, when the park was established. The bulk of the collection, however, comprises specimens collected between 1970 and 1990. These specimens were re-examined, re- identified, and the field label data were registered. In the process, a series of challenging problems had to be faced, such as incorrect determinations, incomplete determinations, name changes and inconsistency of names, incomplete or vague locality data, and different interpretation of family and genus concepts. At this stage, historical collections originated from Cuc Phuong National park in deposit at other herbaria, such as at HN, HNU, and P have only been partially examined.


All the specimen-based information is used to generate a taxon list which is rigorously checked in the taxonomic literature for accuracy and standardization of plant and author names. Standardization creates uniformity among the records, which facilitates data sorting and analysis. We take advantage of the taxonomic databases currently available in the World Wide Web that provide rapid retrieval of information on these plants, namely, Missouri Botanical Garden's Tropicos, a nomenclatural database and associated authority files and International Plant Names Index (IPNI), a database of the names and associated basic bibliographical details of all seed plants ( at the Kew Herbarium.


Data files were designed to capture secondary information about specimens and names cited in the literature. The data include type specimen information and synonymy from taxonomic monographs and revisions, as well as names cited in existing Cuc Phuong Checklist (Nguyen Nghia Thin, 1997) and Vietnam floras (Aubreville and Leroy, 1960- present; Pham Hoang Ho, 1991-93).


This Atlas is one product of the inventory effort, which is still in the process of building. It incorporates all the information gathered on each species, such as nomenclature, literature citation, specimens examined, illustrations, photographs, place of collection in the park (designated as "Sites"), overall geographic distribution, and conservation status.

Another product of the inventory effort is in the printed form, namely, a Checklist (a book) (Soejarto et al., 2004).

Both the online and the printed output are under continuing process of updating and revision.

Specimen data of ICBG project collections are initially registered in NAPIS® (, a software that provides comprehensive tracking of samples from the field to the laboratory. On the other hand, specimen data from historical collections are entered into a simplified database using Microsoft Excel, because the information on the field label is rather incomplete and does not conform with the relational database structure of NAPIS®.

The combined data from project and historical collections are exported into a Microsoft SQL Server database management system (PlantDB). The Plant Atlas web pages are generated directly from the PlantDB database using the ASP program language served from Microsoft's Internet Information Server. Maps are generated directly from PlantDB using ESRI ArcIMS technology residing on a Microsoft NT server. Because the Plant Atlas web site is generated directly from PlantDB, all web pages and maps are as up-to-date as the information entered into the database.

The technology used in this Atlas was adapted from the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants ( The application was modified by Shawn Landry of the Florida Center for Community Design and Research (University of South Florida) and Jeb Holub of Axis Technologies, Inc. The PlantDB and all web pages are licensed for use with the Cuc Phuong Atlas; Unauthorized usage is strictly prohibited. Questions regarding the technology and/or licensing can be directed to Shawn Landry (