The subjects of this digitization project are plant specimens that are pressed, mounted, and maintained in the National Museum of Natural History as part of our mission to document and study plant life on our planet. Specimens have been collected as part of in-house research projects or have been conveyed to us by organizations (universities, museums, botanical gardens) around the world who are engaged in similar kinds of academic inquiry. These specimens are the product of field work conducted by botanists, either working alone or in teams (expeditions), over a period of two centuries in localities around the globe. The focus of the work, for which this request is being made, is the plant family Fabaceae (legumes). Members of this family represent important crop species (e.g. peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, peanut), forage crops (e.g. clover, alfalfa, vetch), and ornamentals (e.g. wisteria, coral tree, lotus, brazilwood). Other species are important sources of gums and natural dyes. Although a small number of specimens date from the 18th century, such as those collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander as part of the First Voyage of Capt. James Cook (1768-1771) and by JosÃ© Celestino Mutis in New Granada (Colombia) in 1789, the preponderance of material ranges from the early 19th century, specifically the result of the exploratory work of the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), to the present. Our most recent collections have been made by our resident legume expert, Dr. Ashley Egan, in areas throughout Southeast Asia and South America. Each specimen represents a unique collecting event defined by its date, location and species. These data provide a critical resource for better understanding of biodiversity and other scholarly studies of this important crop family.
Mr. Guenter Waibel
Smithsonian - Office of the Chief Information Officer
Program Director for Collections & Informatics
1768 - 2015
Members of the family Fabaceae can be found in every terrestrial biome worldwide, and our collection reflects that geographic breadth. However, we are especially strong in localities where legume species are more abundant, including North America, Neotropics, and Southeast Asia.