Bryophytes and Pteridophytes Collections
Bryophytes - The bryophyte collection at The Field Museum is a major resource for bryophyte systematics, particularly for Central and South American, temperate Australasian, North American and European taxa. The collection consists of more than 200,000 specimens, including 127,614 moss and 51,508 hepatic specimens with a total of 2,284 types. Representation from south temperate regions is particularly strong and includes the collections of J. Engel (hepatics), R. M.… more
Bryophytes - The bryophyte collection at The Field Museum is a major resource for bryophyte systematics, particularly for Central and South American, temperate Australasian, North American and European taxa. The collection consists of more than 200,000 specimens, including 127,614 moss and 51,508 hepatic specimens with a total of 2,284 types. Representation from south temperate regions is particularly strong and includes the collections of J. Engel (hepatics), R. M. Schuster (hepatics), H. Roivainen (hepatics and mosses, southern South America), R. E. Hatcher (hepatics, Chile and New Zealand), J. Child (ca. 3,000 mosses and 2,000 hepatics, New Zealand), G. O. K. Sainsbury (mosses, New Zealand) and R. Ochyra (hepatics and mosses, Antarctica). The collection also includes a complete set of the Guatemalan mosses collected by Standley and Steyermark which served as the basis for Bartram's Mosses of Guatemala (Bartram, 1949), as well as the hepatics, which have never been determined or published. Other important holdings include the personal herbarium of R. S. Williams, which includes significant early collections from Bolivia, the Yukan and Montana, including many types.
Major areas of geographic strength in the collection include North America, Europe, Central and South America, and Australasia. The hepatic collection is notable for its strong representation in south temperate regions; the moss collection for its North American, Central American and Andean South American coverage. The preponderance of south temperate hepatic collections reflect not only the focus of research activity over the past twenty-five years, but also the fact that the center of origin and diversity of hepatics is in the temperate regions of the Southern Hemisphere. Mosses, on the other hand, are numerous and well-represented in both temperate and tropical regions of the world.
Significant growth of the collection has occurred through the active research programs of Field Museum staff. John Engel's continuing floristic and monographic research on austral Hepaticae has made Field Museum one of the centers for studies of this group. Resident Research Associate Gary Merrill's research on Polytrichaceae continues to elicit requests for identifications of specimens of this family, which become part of the permanent collection. In addition, a large set of North American bryophytes (ca. 1,000 specimens), collected by Merrill over the past five years, chiefly from the Great Plains and Chicago region, is being incorporated into the permanent collection.
The Schuster Collection- The most significant component of the bryophyte collection at The Field Museum is the recently purchased hepatic herbarium of R. M. Schuster, which is equal in world-wide geographical coverage, systematic breadth, and nomenclatural importance to the major 19th century hepatic collections of Stephani (G) and Schiffner (FH). The herbarium (ca. 58,000 specimens) is being transferred to The Field Museum in stages. 17,000 specimens have been received to date including material relevant to Volumes 1-4 of Schuster's Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America, and miscellaneous Australasian research material. The remainder of the Schuster herbarium (ca. 41,000 specimens) will be transferred to The Field Museum within the next several years. When the transfer is complete the Schuster collection will almost double the number of hepatics at Field Museum and establish the museum collections as a unique international resource for research on the systematics of Hepaticae and Anthocerotae.
The Lewis Collection- A major field program by Field Museum associate Marko Lewis in Alaska, Hawaii, Ecuador and Bolivia, beginning in 1973, has led to acquisition of an estimated 22,000 specimens of bryophytes. Especially important is a large collection of Bolivian bryophytes, which was essentially inaccessible in its original condition. Specimens were collected for the most part in remote areas rarely visited by collectors, and are provided with extensive habitat data. In view of the rapid disappearance of tropical ecosystems, this collection represents a significant and irreplaceable resource. When the Lewis Bolivian collections (ca. 16,000 specimens) are studied by specialists they will inevitably yield many new taxa, as well as material documenting variation, distribution and ecology of rare and poorly understood species.
The Mary Taylor Herbarium- The importance of the southern Appalachians as a reservoir of rare and relictual taxa has long been recognized. In 1985, Field Museum acquired the Mary Taylor collection of ca. 8,000 specimens of Hepaticae, which consists primarily of collections from the southern Appalachians, but also from various remote areas of Florida. Included are irreplaceable collections made in the late 1920's and 1930's in these now threatened and declining ecosystems, and many are from habitats that have long since been destroyed. The herbarium is in excellent condition despite its age, and includes a presently unknown number of types, as well as extensive field notes and correspondence. Mrs. Taylor took special care to secure sporophyte material whenever available, and the collection is particularly rich in these especially valuable specimens. All specimens have now been organized and locality data for the entire collection have been entered into the cryptogamic database.
The Richards Central American and North American Mosses- Along with his personal bryophyte herbarium, the late Donald Richards bequeathed to Field Museum an estimated 1,200 specimens of unidentified mosses from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua gathered by Richards, Louis O. Williams and others (Engel, 1981). Also included are an estimated 1,500 unidentified United States specimens, chiefly mosses.
Pteridiophytes - The pteridophyte collection ranks fourth in the nation in size and includes more than 106,000 specimens of ferns and fern allies, including 373 types. The collection is worldwide in scope but has a strong concentration in tropical America. The Ferns and Fern Allies of Guatemala and Pteridophyta of Peru were based primarily on our holdings. Central American and Mexican collections include the outstanding material of Standley, Steyermark, Molina and L. O. Williams (Guatemala), Matuda, Ringle and Purpus (Mexico), Molina, Williams, Shimek (Nicaragua), and Brenes and Austin Smith (Costa Rica). South American material includes specimens from J. F. Macbride, Mexia, Killip and Smith, and both Carlos and José Schunke (Peru), Cuatrecasas (Colombia), Steyermark and Llewelyn Williams (Venezuela), Acosta Solis (Ecuador), Buchtien and Steinbach (Bolivia), and Brade (Brazil). Although Old World specimens are not especially numerous, they include valuable collections of Blanchard (Africa), Boivin and Humblot (Réunion, Madagascar) and Zenker (Cameroon).
The bryology division gratefully acknowledges the National Science Foundation for critical collection improvement grants to aid in the remodeling, digitizing and databasing of the entire bryophyte collection. An article about this project can be accessed here.