Latin American Plant Initiative (LAPI)

What is LAPI?

Aspilia Asteraceae

LAPI, the Latin American Plant Initiative, is an international partnership of herbaria working to create a coordinated database of information and images of the plants of Latin America. With support from the Mellon Foundation, partner organizations capture data and create high resolution digital images of vascular Latin American type specimens from their collections. The goal of the LAPI project is a self-sustaining resource that an international community of scholars can access via the World Wide Web.

The repository of LAPI specimen data and images will be hosted on the web by Aluka, a not-for-profit initiative to create and maintain digital libraries of scholarly resources from and about the developing world. Information provided through Aluka supports research and teaching worldwide. Currently Aluka hosts a similar repository of African plant type specimens; visit their website for more information about Aluka, its history and recent projects.

map of LAPI area

The Latin American Plant Collection of the Harvard Herbaria

The Harvard University Herbaria (HUH) houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Latin American type specimens in the world. The Latin American collections at HUH cover a geographic range that extends from the northern boundaries of Mexico, across the isles of the West Indies, and southward to the southern-most portions of Chile and Argentina. Harvard houses approximately 40,000 Latin American type specimens (not including paratypes). This number continues to grow as researchers, professors, and collections staff uncover additional types within the general collection stacks of the herbaria.

The Latin American vascular plants specimens are accessioned into one of four HUH collections: the Gray Herbarium (GH), the Herbarium of the Arnold Arboretum (A), the Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium (AMES), and the Economic Herbarium of Oakes Ames (ECON). Major contributors to these collections include, among others, Charles Wright, Edward Palmer, Richard Evans Schultes, Oakes Ames, Miguel Bang, Henry Hurd Rusby, and Julian A. Steyermark.


LAPI at Harvard

In June of 2007, a Harvard LAPI team began the imaging and data capture process for the Latin American types deposited at the HUH. The HUH LAPI work flow proceeds through the type specimens by family. Specimens are removed in alphabetical order by genus within the type section of each family, and carried to the LAPI imaging suite located on the fourth floor of the HUH.

Team members clean and enhance specimen data already entered into ASA, the HUH specimen database. Each type record is reviewed and its status is verified through careful examination of their original publications in the Harvard Botanical Libraries. A quality control process ensures that new data has been entered and edited correctly.

scanner for LAPI

After a specimen has been checked and annotated, it is imaged using one of two herb scanners. An herb scanner is a customized scanning apparatus developed at Kew Gardens and utilized by all LAPI partner organizations. The high resolution (600 dpi) images produced by the scanners reveal an amazing amount of detail about the plant specimen. These images are stored on site, sent to Aluka on a portable disk drive and uploaded to the HUH website.

In addition to the family by family processing of specimens, all Latin American type material passes through this data capture and imaging process before they are sent on loan, filed back into the collections, or included as part of a special imaging request.

LAPI scanning room

Our Mission

The mission of Harvard's LAPI team is to process all of our Latin American type specimens and provide Aluka, and an international community of researchers, with clean, accurate, and authentic data and images of Harvard's Latin American type collection. We hope to fully record, verify, annotate, and upload all of our Latin American type material to both the Aluka and the HUH websites within five years. Through this process, the HUH will establish a comprehensive resource of Latin American plant specimens and material for the world to utilize and enjoy.

For questions or information related to Latin American type material please email LAPI.