The Types of Compositae
Section Vascular plants
The INFOCOMP database project started in April 2000 and finished in April 2003. INFOCOMP was part of the co-operative project INFOBOT (Development and Testing of Information Systems for the Processing of Different Aspects of Botanical Collections) within the BIOLOG program. Within the framework of the German initiative “Biodiversity and Global Change” (BIOLOG) research program “Biodiversity Informatics” formed a significant component. Biodiversity Informatics encompasses the rationale of an effective electronic information infrastructure, which can be used to access past research and data resources that provide the necessary background for knowledge from new results. In practice, this means the documentation and data mining of the enormous information sources represented by biological collections in Germany, including botanical collections.
The Compositae (Asteraceae or Sunflower family) form the largest flowering plant family in the world, with an estimated 25,000 species and was therefore well suited to serve as an example for a digital evaluation. The overall ecological and economical importance of the Compositae means that any knowledge gleaned about it is indispensable, not only for biodiversity analysis, but also in realm of environmental evaluation and research. In these, and related topics, familiarity with, and accessibility of, the nomenclatural types is a prerequisite. Nomenclatural types are the reference sheets of pressed plants laid down in herbaria. These are directly and permanently connected to their plant names and allow species to be unambiguously identified, underpinning even the most modern research techniques.
The Botanische Staatssammlung München is one of the oldest and most significant in Germany. It holds approximately 2.5 million collections of which an estimated 30,000 are types. Within the phanerogam herbarium there are around 270,000 Compositae specimens of which more than 2,300 are types.
Imaging of herbarium specimens, especially nomenclatural types, has long been acknowledged as a useful safety net for botanical collections. The images (e.g., photos, photocopies) are intended as supplementary, or alternative, to loans of fragile, rare or important material. The presentation of type collections and material of historical interest in a digitised format on the Web is becoming increasingly popular. INFOCOMP represented the first specifically funded project of this kind in Germany.
INFOCOMP involved the digital imaging of Compositae nomenclatural types held in the Munich public herbaria (M & MSB). Preliminary details were presented in a poster at the BIOLOG Statusseminar in December 2001. Further details about data organisation and technical aspects of the project are presented in Davies et al. 2002. Digital images of each type sheet were taken, showing labels, habit and taxonomically relevant details (figs 1 & 2). The type material was scientifically evaluated consulting the original species descriptions as well as other resources.
The images on this database were taken freehand using a digital camera (Nikon D1 + flash gun), not using a scanner. This had the overwhelming advantage of mobility and, perhaps most importantly in the case of the Compositae, allowed for freedom in selecting specific, taxonomically important components to photograph in more detail. The resolution of the images is 2,000 x 1,312 pixels. The project was presented on the Internet using the commercial software FileMaker® Pro.
The project imaged and evaluated 2, 371 types (ca 16,900 images). The age and importance of the Munich herbaria is reflected in the collectors and authors of names that are found among the Compositae types. These are summarised in Tables 1 – 6. The data included in these tables was collated at the end of the project and covers the tribal distribution of type material, the most prolific authors and collectors, the type status of types in M & MSB, important collectors in different countries, and the number of types represented from different continents and countries.
The genus Hieracium s.l. (Hawkweeds) comprised a third of the digitised Compositae types, involving specific technical and nomenclatural challenges. A poster was taken to the 6th Hieracium Workshop (Allgäu, Germany) in 2002 outlining some of these issues.
Subsequently, 10 Compositae types from the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Görlitz (GLM) were also imaged and presented with the INFOCOMP database.
Using the database
- The database is searchable using the following search categories: basionym, author, collector, continent and country.
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Project Leader: Prof. Dr. J. Grau
Project Staff: P. Bodensteiner, A.M.R. Davies, A. Pillukat
Computer Support: B. Grau
INFOCOMP was funded by the BIOLOG program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Project ID: 01LC9906. We thank the curators of the Munich herbarium (M & MSB), especially Dr F. Schuhwerk for his help and expertise and Dr C. Ehrhart for her support in the initial phase. Staff members of the Botanische Staatssammlung, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, and the Botanischer Garten München have been kindly available in an advisory capacity to the project.
- Davies, A.M.R., Bodensteiner, P., Pillukat, A. & Grau, J. 2004: Compositae Type Images from Munich (M & MSB): the INFOCOMP Project online. Compositae Newsletter 41: 60–63.
- Davies, A.M.R., Bodensteiner, P., Pillukat, A. & Grau, J. 2002: INFOCOMP – The Compositae Types digital imaging project in Munich. Sendtnera 8: 9–20.
- Davies, A.M.R., Bodensteiner, P., Pillukat, A. & Schuhwerk, F. 2002: INFOCOMP – The Compositae Types digital imaging project in Munich: Hieracium in Gutermann, W. (Ed.) 6th Hieracium Workshop. Hirschegg/Kleinwalsertal (Österreich), 17.–23.7.2002. Contribution Abstracts (Lectures and Posters). – pp. 18. Inst. Bot. Univ. Wien: Wien.
- Grau, J., Bodensteiner, P., Davies, A.M.R. & Pillukat, A. 2001: Compositae Types in German Herbaria. – German Programme on Biodiversity and Global Change Status Report 2001: 224–225.