Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium (AMES)

Myrmecophila christinae

The Orchid Herbarium of Oakes Ames (Ames Herbarium) contains about 131,000 plant specimens that are pressed, dried, and mounted on archival heavy paper and labeled with essential collecting data. A collection of 3,000 flowers in glycerin, 4,000 specimens preserved in liquid, and hundreds of line drawings supplement the specimens in the main collection. The main collection is accompanied by the Orchid Library of Oakes Ames, which houses about 5,000 books, reprints, and journals. The Ames Herbarium is much more than a dried specimen repository. It includes records and other documentation, with beautiful and remarkably detailed drawings from herbaria collections around the world. The collection can be searched on the specimen database.


Oakes Ames, Dr. G. L. Goodale's successor in the Botanical Museum, took a particular interest in developing two special collections: the orchid herbarium (AMES) and a collection of plants of economic importance (ECON). In addition, Blanche Ames, wife of Oakes Ames, was an outstanding botanical illustrator and watercolorist. Her artwork is among the visual treasures that elucidate her husband's scholarly work and helps Zygopetalum wendlandi capture the visual allure of Orchidaceae.

The Ames Herbarium is exceptionally rich in type specimens, with some 6,000 holotypes and 4,000 isotypes represented, resulting from an active exchange program maintained throughout the years by the staff of the herbarium. An exceptional collection of type specimens and drawings of types was received from Rudolf Schlechter and Rudolf Mansfeld at the Berlin-Dahlem herbarium (B), the collections of which were largely destroyed during World War II.

Specimen sheets included in the LDI Orchid Project are stored in compact storage units in the Ames Herbarium that contain most of the type specimens designated by Ames, as well as an extensive and unique set of drawings and types designated by Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach (abbreviated Reichenbach filius or x Reichenbach f., because he share the same initials with his father, Heinrich Gottlieb Reichenbach, who was also an accomplished botanist), Rudolf Schlechter, and Rudolf Mansfeld. Reichenbach f.'s type specimens are housed at the Natural History Museum in Vienna (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien) but do not circulate; and Schlechter and Manfeld's were destroyed during the bombing of Berlin in the 1940's. Hence, the HUH holdings are now the only extant documentation for many of the species the latter two botanists proposed.

Dr. Gustavo Romero is responsible for curation of the Orchid Herbarium and has been the collection's keeper since 1988.

Current orchid research includes the orchids of Neotropical island-like unique habitats, the systematics of subtribes Catasetinae, Cyrtopodiinae, Lycastinae (Bifrenaria alliance), and Zygopetalinae (Warrea and Zygopetalum alliances) for the orchid flora of the Venezuelan Guayana and surrounding countries (Brazil, Colombia, and Guyana) and several other Neotropical floras, as well as a digitization project of types and various herbarium card files.