Research Overview

How biologically diverse is Panama’s flora?

I’ve cataloged Panama’s flora for many years and collected approximately 12,000 specimens, many of which have been identified as new species. My interest is to concentrate research in areas that have been ignored and are likely to be rich in species diversity in order to complete the flora and gain a better understanding of species distributions and whether they are common, endemic, endangered, rare or vulnerable.

How can knowledge of Panama’s national park flora improve interpretation for ecotourists?

Many tourists visit Panama’s national parks and our books and guides about Panama’s plants are extremely popular. The guides that describe the ferns, shrubs and smaller plants are especially in demand since these plants are the easiest for visitors to see and ask questions about. Proceeds from our guide to the plants of Panama City’s Natural Metropolitan Park contribute funds to the park and to the University of Panama’s herbarium, both of which rely on external funding sources to support scientific research.

How do people use Panama’s plants as medicines?

Many people, especially in Panama’s interior, use medicinal plants. Many of these plants produce real health benefits but some of them are potentially dangerous. As the prices of medicine increases, many people have turned to plants as substitutes. There is much potential for discovery of potent plant chemicals to treat illnesses in Panama’s plants but there is also the risk that proven medical treatments could be abandoned for less effective remedies.

How does the geological history of Panama influence the present-day distribution of plants?

Since the Isthmus of Panama unites North and South America, this land bridge is a unique meeting place for plant species. Many species from both the north and the south reach their furthest range extensions in Panama. Together with Panama’s 1,400 endemic plant species, the community composition of Panama’s plants is perhaps one of the most “international” on Earth. This small country is home to at least 10,000 vascular plants, 6,000 mosses and 900 ferns.


B.A., University of Panama, 1963.

M.A., Duke University, 1967.

Selected Publications

Rodríguez, A., Monro, A.K., Chacón, O., Solano, D., Santamaría, D., Zamora, N., González, F. y Correa, M.D. 2011. Regional and global conservation assessments for 200 vascular plant species from Costa Rica and Panama. Phytotaxa 21: 1–216.

Ibáñez, A., Castroviejo, S., Fernández Alonso, J.L., Correa, M.D. 2005. Catálogo de la Flora de la Región de Bahía Honda (Veraguas, Panamá). In: Estudios sobre la Biodiversidad de la Región de Bahía Honda (Veraguas, Panamá). S. Castroviejo & A. Ibáñez, Editors. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Instituto de España. Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales. Madrid. 

Correa A., M.D. and T. R. dos S. Silva. 2005. Drosera (Droseraceae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 96: 1-66. Published by The New York Botanical Garden.

Correa A., M.D., Galdames, C. y M. Stapf. 2004. Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares de Panamá. Publicación de ANAM. STRI y UP. Editorial Novoart. Panamá.

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