Focus: Seed Plants

Focus: Seed Plants

Their research interests cover such topics as the diversity of neotropical plants, taxonomic revisions of the Asteraceae, Solanaceae, and other diverse plant families, forest ecology, especially as it relates to conservation biology, the restoration of paries and oak-savannas in the Chicago area, and the search for new anti-AIDS and anticancer compounds in plants.

    rree's picture

    Richard Ree

    Curator of Flowering Plants Integrative Research Center
    cniezgoda's picture

    Christine Niezgoda

    Collections Manager, Flowering Plants Gantz Family Collections Center

Focus: Seed Plants Collections

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.

Berlin Negatives

The Botany Department's unique type photograph collection originated in 1929 when J. Francis Macbride, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, traveled to Europe to photograph herbarium specimens of nomenclatural types. The intent was to make the photographs available to American botanists unable to finance travels to European herbaria; the widespread adoption of the loan process was not as fully developed as it is today, necessitating travel for consultation.
(more about Macbride)

Botany Specimens

Botany is the scientific study of plants and fungi. Scientists in the Department of Botany at The Field Museum are interested in learning why there are so many different plants and fungi in the world, how this diversity is distributed across the globe and how best to classify it, and what important roles these organisms play in the environment and in human cultures.

Botany Taxonomy

Presently, the Taxonomy module holds a complete classification for higher fungi and lichens (Ascomycota, Basidiomycota), liverworts (Marchantiphyta), and hornworts (Anthocerophyta), from genus up to division/phylum level, and a partial classification for mosses (Bryophyta), ferns and their relatives (Pteridophyta), and seed plants (Spermatophyta), up to family level.


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.

Mesoamerican Botany

The Mesoamerican Ethnobotanical database is a collaborative ethnobotanical and archaeobotanical project between The Searle Herbarium of The Field Museum (F)) and the Department of Anthropology at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). Archaeologists, botanists, ethnobotanists, and interested laypeople often recover parts of flowers, seeds, and fruits in their research.


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.