Investigating Plant and Fungal Diversity

Rapid land use and environmental change have the potential to eliminate species before they can be identified, yet understanding the diversity of ecosystems is essential in optimizing habitat restoration and management. Understanding the diversity and evolutionary history of plants and fungi provides the historical context that enriches our appreciation of the diversity that is found in native habitats.  

Diversification in Floral Color of Castilleja spp.

Diversification in Floral Color of Castilleja spp.

The striking diversity of floral shapes, color, and scent has captivated poets and scientist alike. However, Darwin noted that the diversity of flowering plants was almost too great to believe, something he referred to it as the “abominable mystery.” The quest to answer why we have so many flowering plants is still ongoing and has made flowers a model group to answer important questions about speciation. One particularly challenging aspect of the mystery is how new forms arise and spread.

Science Collections

Herbarium specimen

The Science Collections website launched in 2013, allowing public access to information on all research samples held at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Currently we have accessioned more than 4,950 genetic samples, which come from a broad variety of sources including living collections (Tankersley), Seed Bank (Vitt, Yates, and Sollenberger), DNA collections (Fant), and herbarium (Zerega and Masi).