Thursday, February 15, 2018

BHL Gains Works on the Diverse Plant Genus ‘Hoya’

Hoya fetuana on cover of Hoya New, v.6: issue 4, 2017. Photo by Robert Dale Kloppenburg.

Robert Dale Kloppenburg is definitely a dedicated botanist. As of January 2018 - when he celebrated his 97th birthday - he has named 234 plant species, mainly in the flowering genus Hoya, which has been his focus for close to forty years since his retirement.

Kloppenburg and the International Hoya Association, of which he is president, have made some generous contributions to the Biodiversity Heritage Library, with funding of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project. Currently available on BHL are:
Fraterna provides a wealth of information on Hoya species and hybrids, for botanists and horticulturalists, as well as the association’s news updates.

Hoya New presents new species descriptions with photos and identification keys.

Also currently available on BHL are Kloppenburg’s titles:

Hoya andalensis on cover of Fraterna v.18: no. 1, 2005. Photo by Kim F. Yap. Contributed by International Hoya Association and digitized by The New York Botanical Garden.

The International Hoya Association originated in 1988 as a USA west coast interest group which published a newsletter, first bi-monthly and then quarterly. By the end of their second year, international interest had allowed the group to expand to a non-profit with global membership. An affiliated group, ‘Svenska Hoya Sõllskapet’ based in Borlõnge, Sweden, also publishes a quarterly magazine about hoyas.

What are these plants? The association’s website describes the diverse genus:

"The genus Hoya is found in South East Asia through Australia. They are adaptable plants found everywhere from true rain forests through the slopes of the Himalayas, from semi-arid niches in Australia to damp forests. They range from vines, the most common form, to shrub-like growth. Most are epiphytic [growing on other plants]. Hoyas are in the family commonly known as milkweeds."

Parts of Hoya bebsguevarre described in Hoya New, v.1: no.4, 2013.

“What interests me most about hoyas is the vast diversity, the genetic differences and their possible evolutionary significance,” Kloppenburg shared in an interview in Fraterna. “I am of the opinion that we have collected and identified less than 1% of the wild hoya species.”

As an opening message for Hoya New, Kloppenburg explains how the work of horticultural professionals and hobbyists can contribute to the conservation of biodiversity:

"When a species is collected from the wild, I feel it is wise to identify it, propagate it, and name it. In this way it will eventually get into the commercial channels, be distributed to all those interested in the genus and thus be preserved. If in the future the species is lost through natural causes or forest destruction it will still be here on earth in your collection."

Kloppenburg began studying the genus Hoya in the Philippines in 1981. He had graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, shortly after WWII and worked as a plant breeder research agronomist. Since his retirement in 1986, he has continued to study hoyas, traveling extensively in the South Pacific. His data has been donated to UC Berkeley. In 2016, he reached out to Smithsonian Libraries to offer publications, and agreed to contribute the material to Biodiversity Heritage Library. His assistant, Karen Case, assisted with the permissions process.

“It has been a most exciting journey to be hosted with such a prestigious organization as the Biodiversity Heritage Library, for which I will be eternally grateful,” Kloppenburg says. “I hope my work will help others to become interested in hoyas, and that they will carry on the discovery of new species in the future.”

Meanwhile, he’s still studying plants in the genera Hoya, Dischidia and Eriostemma. “I no longer travel, so I depend on others, mainly in the Philippines, to send me material,” he says.

Many thanks to the International Hoya Association and to Robert ‘Dale’ Kloppenburg for their commitment to sharing biodiversity research, and to Karen Case for helping to facilitate the process.

By: Elizabeth Meyer 
Library Project Assistant 
Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University 


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

BHL Internship Opportunity: Digital Content Internship

The Biodiversity Heritage Library is looking for a Digital Content Intern for Summer 2018.

Hosted through the Smithsonian Libraries, this is an unpaid, virtual internship. Interns will work remotely and should should have their own computer and internet access, as well as video conferencing capability.

Applications are open until 23 March 2018 or until filled.

Internship Description:

The BHL Digital Content Intern will work closely with the Digital Collections Manager to contribute digitized books and metadata to the BHL collection. Interns will learn various digitization workflow tools to track collection management and curation activities, enhance metadata, and process digital files for inclusion. Routine activities will include identifying key gaps in BHL's collection, preparing digital books and catalog records for upload, adding descriptive item and page level metadata, ensuring copyright compliance and documenting workflow tasks.

Ideal candidates will possess great attention to detail and a demonstrated ability to communicate proactively and work independently. Preference given to students with metadata or cataloging experience. Students enthusiastic to learn about collection management and curation in digital libraries are strongly encouraged to apply.

How to Apply:

All applications must go through the Smithsonian Online Appointment System: Select Smithsonian Institution Libraries as the unit, Smithsonian Institution Libraries Internship Program as the program and then the "Biodiversity Heritage Library Digital Content (VIRTUAL)" project.

Questions or comments? Send us feedback or write to

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dr. Arthur Cronquist and his Botanical Field Notes

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden is one of many partners on the Biodiversity Heritage Library Field Notes Project which was generously funded by the Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR). As its contribution to the project, NYBG selected 91 field notebooks for digitization. Nine different collectors are represented in the selected volumes. The bulk of the selected volumes — a total of 61 — document the botanical collecting of Dr. Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992), a pre-eminent twentieth-century American botanist who spent most of his career at NYBG. The Cronquist field notes date from 1941 to 1990 and while most document work done in the continental United States, other countries are also represented including the former Soviet Union, a region of great interest to Cronquist.

Dr. Arthur Cronquist 

Arthur Cronquist in his office at NYBG, 1980s.
Cronquist's professional accomplishments were numerous and varied. He was recognized internationally as an expert in the Asteraceae (also known as Compositae), the largest plant family in terms of number of described species. His other professional achievements include floristic studies, development of a taxonomic classification system and authorship of several widely used botany textbooks. Floristics refers to study of the types, numbers, distributions and relationships of plant species within a given, delimited area. Theodore Barkley wrote about Cronquist:
"Over the years, he was variously connected to nearly every major floristic project in temperate North America (and even one in the Galapagos), whether as author, coauthor, contributor, or consultant." [1]  
The list of projects worked on by Cronquist includes Compositae in The New Britton & Brown Illustrated Flora (Gleason, 1952); Compositae in Flora of Idaho (Davis, 1952), Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest (Hitchcock et al., 1955-1969), Manual of the Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada (Gleason & Cronquist, 1963 [ed. 2, 1991]) and the fifth volume of the multi-volume Intermountain Flora (1994) to name just a few.

Erigeron maguirei, named by Cronquist in honor of Dr. Bassett Maguire, an early mentor. Endemic to Utah, Maguire's Fleabane is a species of conservation concern and is a member of the Asteraceae, one of Cronquist's major research foci.

While eulogizing Cronquist at a memorial service held at NYBG in 1992, Dr. Peter Raven compared the botanical achievements of Cronquist to those of Linnæus. [2]  Other scientists have called him the twentieth-century Asa Gray, considered by many to be the most important American botanist of the nineteenth century. Arthur Cronquist died on March 22, 1992, while studying specimens in the herbarium of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

The Field Notes 

Penstemon subulatus Jones, Cronquist 10561,
from Nevada, Arizona, California, 1966, [numbers 10554-10649].

Cronquist's botanical field notebooks are typical of other botanical field notebooks and show how botanists document their field work and collect specimens. The image above shows one page in a field notebook created by Cronquist in 1966. At the top of the page, the number "10561" is visible. Botanists assign sequential numbers to the specimens that they collect throughout their careers. This number, when appended to the collector's name, e.g. Cronquist 10561, forms an identifier that is retained when the specimen is subsequently deposited in a herbarium. The descriptive information recorded in the field notebook, e.g. the date, location and elevation, is copied from the field notes to a specimen label. The dried, pressed specimen and the specimen label are then mounted on a large sheet of paper. The image below shows a herbarium sheet for the specimen described on this page in Cronquist's field notes and comes from the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium at New York Botanical Garden.

Penstemon subulatus Jones, Herbarium Specimen

The entire collection of field notes from all institutions participating in the BHL Field Notes Project is available in the BHL here. The Cronquist field notes contributed by NYBG are located here.

Written By: 
Susan Lynch 
Systems, Digitization and Web Librarian 
New York Botanical Garden 

[1] Barkley, Theodore M. (1996). On the Contribution of Arthur Cronquist to Botanical Science at The New York Botanical Garden. Brittonia, 48(3), 372-375. Retrieved from

[2] Lamont, Eric E. (1994). Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992). Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 58, 126-129. Retrieved from 

Further Reading: 
University of Florida Herbarium. Preparation of Plant Specimens for Deposit as Herbarium Vouchers. Retrieved from 

The BHL Field Notes Project is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Teaching with Historic Biodiversity Publications

Can science increase agricultural productivity and support food security?

The founders of the Royal Agricultural Society of England believed so. In 1838, a group of individuals with varied agricultural interests united to establish the Society with the purpose to promote the scientific advancement of English agriculture. Just two years later, in 1840, Queen Victoria granted the Society its Royal Charter, and the Society has played a significant role in agricultural progress in England ever since.

Title page for Volume One of the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. 1839. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

The Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England was used to communicate the Society's activities and disseminate information useful to those in agricultural fields. Since the publication of the first volume in 1839, the Journal has shared practical advice on soil cultivation; advances in agricultural implements, structures, and pest control; discoveries of new crop varieties; land management guidance; improvements in veterinary care related to livestock; and the results of agricultural experiments.

The Journal is useful not only for research in agricultural science, but also other fields like environmental history. For Dr. Karen Sayer, Professor of Social and Cultural History at Leeds Trinity University, it is an invaluable resource.

"The Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England is a crucial source in my field, and I have easy access to it thanks to the Biodiversity Heritage Library."

Dr. Karen Sayer (left) with a student. Image Rights: Leeds Trinity University.

Sayer's research focuses on conceptualizations of rural communities, landscapes, and environments; human and animal relations in agriculture; and agricultural labor, landscapes, and structures in a social and cultural context. Thanks to BHL, which she discovered whilst searching for primary sources nearly ten years ago, Sayer has easy access to the references she needs to support her research.

"BHL is an incredible resource," affirms Sayer. "It provides access to material that is otherwise hard to get and enables me to undertake detailed searches of these sources. I use it frequently, often weekly, especially when I’m teaching as it is also a great resource for my students."

Sayer's favorite feature within the library is the ability to generate custom PDFs of specific pages, which allows her to download just those articles relevant to her research. This feature is also useful within the classroom, allowing her to share articles with her students for reading and commenting.

Having digital access to publications such as the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England also allows Sayer and her students to easily explore elements of agricultural and rural society and the dissemination of information at different cultural levels.

Plans for cottages within the article "The Housing of the Agricultural Labourer." Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. v. 75 (1914). Digitized by The New York Botanical Garden.

"I like being able to pull up a whole text online for teaching, as I can project it on a Smart Board in the classroom and as a group we can scroll through it to explore ideas, juxtapositions, etc." explains Sayer. "My students can see that articles about French or German agriculture were being published alongside detailed explorations of wheat yields at agricultural research stations and reports on machinery exhibits at a county level. They can see how knowledge circulated at the time and the ways in which issues and ideas were debated."

To further facilitate her research, Sayer would love to be able to search the full text of the collection and specific holdings to more easily identify articles related to specific topics and get a sense of the development of an idea or debate over time.

We are thrilled to confirm that full text search is currently under development. Through increased research efficiency, full text search will enhance BHL's ability to inspire discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge. Stay tuned for more information on this new service.

As Dr. Sayer's experience demonstrates, historic natural history publications provide a wealth of information beyond scientific data. These works also document important cultural information, providing insight into the emergence of ideas and the spread of knowledge through society and time. We are thrilled to know that BHL's collections support research across a wide array of disciplines.

By Grace Costantino
Outreach and Communication Manager
Biodiversity Heritage Library


Royal Agricultural Society of England. 2018. "History." Accessed January 30, 2018.