Flora of China

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Harvard University Herbaria

Editorial Committee Members:

David E. Boufford

Anthony R. Brach

The Harvard University Herbaria have had a long history of interest in the Asian flora dating back to the time of Asa Gray and Charles Sprague Sargent. Gray was the recipient of many specimens from early United States exploring expeditions and his early papers on the relationships of Asian and American plants form the basis for present day studies of plant geography, particularly of the study of eastern Asian - eastern North American plant relationships. Sargent was strongly influenced by Gray and very early after the founding of the Arnold Arboretum, he set about to introduce Asian plants to the Boston environment and to bring back specimens to the Arboretum's herbarium. Several collectors from the Arboretum explored for plants in China, but perhaps the most well known was Ernest H. Wilson, who brought back seeds, specimens and photographs from his several trips. Other botanical collectors not actually employed by the Arboretum were supported, however, in their collecting endeavours in China. These latter included Joseph Rock, Camillo Schneider, and later many Chinese botanists, including YŁ Te-tsun, Ching Ren-chang, S. K. Lau, Fang Wen-Pei, Wang Chan, Wang Chi-wu, and many others. One of the greatest periods of acquisition of Asian specimens and Asian literature at Harvard was during Elmer D. Merrill's directorship of the Arnold Arboretum. Merrill had a strong interest in Asia, which he acquired during his days in the Philippines in the early 1900s, and he made every effort to purchase specimens and literature relating to eastern and southeastern Asia during his ten year tenure as director of the Arboretum. The rich collections from throughout Asia, not only from China but also from all the countries surrounding China, place the Harvard Herbaria and Harvard's botanical libraries among the most important institutions for the study of Chinese plants and their relationships.