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Panama’s Plentiful Plants

An invitation from Mireya Correa

August 23, 2013

Panama City, Panama

The director of Panama’s herbaria invite visiting researchers to use these valuable resources of Panama’s astounding plant biodiversity.

Mireya Correa, the director of the University of Panama herbarium since 1968 and STRI staff scientist since 1987, wants to draw attention to the STRI Herbarium. “I think a lot of visiting scientists don’t know about the herbarium. It’s small but we’re working to make it a very complete reference collection,” she says.

The STRI herbarium originated as a set of dried plant specimens at the U.S. Army’s former Tropical Test Center in 1964. Meanwhile the collection was moved to Florida State University and to Summit Gardens, which explains why its official ID code is still SCZ (Summit, Canal Zone).  After time in the basement of the Tivoli building, it came to the Tupper Center.

Mireya stresses the importance of the specimens themselves. For instance, STRI botanist Carmen Galdames collected Proteum pecuniosum, thought to be endemic to Costa Rica. Doug Daly at the New York Botanical Garden confirmed its identity based on a scan. “But remember,” he said, “photos are nice, however, specimens are science.” STRI researchers have used STRI’s herbarium specimens to analyze nutrients in leaf tissue through time, and to discover genetic relationships between species.

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