Studies in Asia:




Field Studies in China

China Map

Since 1980 HUH staff members have participated in or coordinated more than 15 field trips to China (to Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Qinghai, Sichuan, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Xizang, Yunnan and Zhejiang). The Hengduan Mountains have been the focus of several recent expeditions. David Boufford, Rick Ree and Susan Kelley have been particularly active in these expeditions, which have resulted in more than 40,000 new collections of vascular plants, bryophytes and fungi being added to the Harvard Herbaria collections. Since the most complete set of specimens from these expeditions remains in China, a somewhat greater number have been deposited in Chinese herbaria. Duplicate specimens have also been sent to other participating institutions, sent on exchange to herbaria with an active interest in Asian plants and sent to specialists for their expert determinations. In total, these expeditions have provided well over 100,000 new Chinese specimens for researchers around the world.

Acer specimen

Despite Harvard's rich collection of Chinese plants, a large number of our collections represent the first additions of many taxa to the Herbaria. Besides the advantages of field work in obtaining specimens and gaining a better understanding of the plants in nature, our activities have also allowed us to establish and renew ties with many institutions and researchers in China. Additional specimens are received from them through exchanges and gifts. Exchange specimens are also received from other international institutions with a research focus on China and neighboring countries. Approximately 31,000 species of vascular plants are known from China, and about 20 to 30 percent of those have been described within China over the past fifty years. For new taxa, there are often no representative collections in the West. Our expeditions and institutional interactions have focused on obtaining specimens of them, and on obtaining specimens and research material of the Hengduan flora in general. Among the most interesting and unusual genera that we collected are Tetradoxa (Adoxaceae) from Sichuan Province, Sinadoxa (Adoxaceae) from Qinghai Province, both of which were described only since 1980, Acanthochlamys (Achanthochlamydaceae), described in 1979 and known only from Sichuan, and the first collections of Biebersteinia heterostemon (Biebersteiniaceae) from Xizang (Tibet). We have also discovered new localities for numerous rare and endangered plants and have added to the understanding of the distribution of Chinese plants in general through visits to areas that were never before explored.

Acer specimen

The Harvard University Herbaria also serve as one of the editorial centers for the Flora of China Project, a collaborative effort to publish the first modern English-language account of the vascular plants of China. David Boufford and Anthony Brach (members of the editorial committee) edit Flora of China manuscripts, collaborate on treatments for the Flora, provide assistance on-line, by phone and by mail, and help visitors to the Herbaria who come to study Asian collections or gather information for their treatments. The Flora of China web site, also based in the Harvard Herbaria, provides manuscripts, images, links to searchable data and links to other sites with information on the plants of China.