From Plant Press, Vol. 18, No. 3, July 2015.
By Eric Schuettpelz and Warren L. Wagner
This year’s Smithsonian Botanical Symposium was unique in its focus on a particular taxonomic group (pteridophytes), as well as in its duration (spanning an entire week). “Next Generation Pteridology” (see profile here) focused entirely on the biology of ferns and lycophytes. The first day was filled with a broad spectrum of accessible presentations typical of our annual Smithsonian Botanical Symposium and the remainder of the week featured a series of focused colloquia, contributed talks, and workshops. In all, the scientific program included 127 presentations and brought together well over 200 individuals representing 29 countries. But the event had effects well beyond the communication of science. Without a doubt, “Next Generation Pteridology” had a profound influence in building connections to the Smithsonian and strengthening collaborations within the pteridological community. Additionally, the presence of so many of the world’s experts under one roof had a significant impact on our collection.
In the days leading up to and following “Next Generation Pteridology,” and during the event itself, the pteridophyte herbarium saw nearly 50 visitors (see list of visitors beginning on page 2 of the newsletter). Many of these visitors spent several days conducting research in the collection, and the great influx of experts resulted in some extensive curation of our specimens. In all, more than 500 specimens were annotated and about a dozen types were uncovered and moved to the type herbarium. Perhaps most notable was the discovery (by Barbara Parris, from the Fern Research Foundation, New Zealand) of an isotype of Xiphopteris exilis Parris, a species that at the time of its publication was known only from the type collection. It was truly wonderful to see so many researchers working in the pteridophyte herbarium advancing their own projects, while simultaneously improving the value of our specimens and helping us to fine tune our collection for the upcoming digitization.