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STRI and SCZ Herbariums:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

STRI Herbarium

The first herbarium created in Panama was that of Barro Colorado Island in 1923. This was registered in the Herbarium Index under the acronym STRI and maintains a vascular plant reference collection, collected primarily from the Barro Colorado Nature Monument. The majority of the historical collections of the island, including those of Paul C. Stanley, were transferred to the Missouri Botanical Gardens Herbarium in United States.

Currently (Nov., 2008), the STRI Herbarium has a general collection of 2,112 specimens, including 5 nomenclature types. The information contained in the specimen tags is being digitized and this information will be available on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute herbarium web site (

SCZ Herbarium

In July 1965, several laboratories of the Army Tropical Test Center (ATTC) of the United States, close to the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal, were assigned. This facility was created in order to determine the characteristics of a tropic forest environment, and how this environment affected metal objects in general. A dry, plant reference collection for the different study areas was initiated in these installations.

Years later, the Division of Community Services of the Panama Canal Company, together with the Missouri Botanical Gardens, represented by Walter H. Lewis, decided to create the Summit Herbarium. This initiative received the support of George Gauger of the ATTC and of Edwin Tyson of the Florida State University. The new herbarium began operations in Summit Gardens (close to the town of Gamboa), today known as ‘El Parque Municipal Summit.’

The plant collection (approx. 6,000) deposited in the ATTC herbarium was incorporated in the new herbarium. In addition, the Missouri Botanical Gardens donated almost 6,000 specimens, as well as providing technical and financial support for scientific programs, including the collection curator. In 1968, the herbarium was officially listed in the Herbarium Index under the acronym SCZ.

At some moment the 1980’s the SCZ Herbarium was moved to the basement of the Tivoli building of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Ancon. In 1990 the Institute assigned space in its new installations, the Tupper Building, where it is currently located.

In October 2006, the herbarium was moved from its original location to new offices in the same building.

The SCZ herbarium is a reference collection, primarily of vascular plants of Panama. As of November, 2008, the herbarium contains 14,549 specimens, including 223 nomenclature types. This information is available in STRI’s Herbarium website.

Towards the end of the 1980’s, the SCZ herbarium, together with the PMA Herbarium (located in the Universidad de Panama), began the ‘Flora of Panama’ project. The idea of this project is to maintain an up-to-date database of the plant species found in Panama. In addition, the two herbariums carried out collections throughout the country, especially in little studies areas.

Digitization Center

The SCZ Herbarium participates as a partner in the Latin American Plant Initiative (LAPI), financed by the Mellon Foundation. One of its objectives is to function as the Center for Digitization for Central America. In this role, the herbarium receives the type specimens for those Central American herbariums with fewer than 500 types and proceeds to scan them. The Center is prepared to receive the samples from those herbariums as soon as they are sent.