The 1932 expedition of David Fairchild to the Caribbean on board Utowana: Botanizing in Beata, Saona, Trinidad, Tobago, and Tortola islands
Keywords:Tropical islands, plant genetic resources, botanical history, Neotropics, plant biodiversity, Orator F. Cook, Mangifera indica
Research conducted in the Archive and Library of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the U.S. National Archives, and the U.S. National Herbarium allowed us to reconstruct field work performed by David Fairchild (1869–1954) in the islands of Beata, Saona, Tobago, Tortola, and Trinidad in 1932. This was part of a larger expedition to the Caribbean Islands, Suriname and Guyana by the United States Department of Agriculture between December 1931 and April 1932. During the collection endeavor to these five islands, 261 photographs were taken, 82 herbarium collections (75 species) were made, and 185 germplasm accessions (148 species) were added to the USDA germplasm repositories. In total, plant material for 185 species (224 collections) was collected. A major highlight of the trip were the herbarium collections that led to the description of the Beata endemic genus Armouria (Malvaceae). However, more recent taxonomic studies place this genus within the tropical genus Thespesia (~13 species). Thirteen distinguished naturalists or high ranking government officers were met in Trinidad (12) and Tortola (1). Collections of cotton (6 accessions) and palms (25 accessions) were relevant to the expedition objectives; however no samples of Sea-Island Cotton were obtained, despite this being a major germplasm objective. Exploring the Botanic Garden of Trinidad was another main highlight of the trip. Documents, photos, and research results are made available online at: www.archive.org. The project is framed within an undergraduate research program on botanical history that is being performed in partnership with botanists from national and foreign institutions. Part of the collected material was introduced into the Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos, Cuba shortly after the expedition ended.
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