Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Website Search Box

Department of Botany

Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield

View from Mt. Ayanganna, Photo T. Henkel


The project "Georeferencing Plants of the Guiana Shield: US Types" displays in Google Earth and Google Maps the geographical location of the plant types housed in the US National Herbarium. These specimens were originally collected on the Guiana Shield often by the Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield Program (BDG) of the Smithsonian Institution.

All species on earth (that we know of) have an official name. In general, that name consists of a genus, a specific epithet, and the name of the person(s) who described it; all together these are called a species name. Usually each species name is tied to a specimen that is housed in a collection that is stored in a Herbarium in a Museum, Garden or University. These specimens are called types. Naming of plants is governed by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

This site currently includes the Type collections of plants collected on the Guiana Shield (in Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and the Venezuelan states of Amazonas, Bolivar and Delta Amacuro) and housed at the US National Herbarium (ca. 3400 specimens).

To view detailed information and images for the plant type specimens, display the specimens with coordinates on Google Maps, and download their Google Earth files follow the link to the "Search for US Type Specimens" in the left column on this page.

Google Earth must to be installed on your computer to open the kml files. You can download Google Earth Google Earth here. If you are new to Google Earth you can find some tips on the Google Earth section.

Read our recent article on the project, Garcia-Milagros, E. and V.A. Funk. 2010. Improving the use of information from museum specimens: Using Google Earth© to georeference Guiana Shield specimens in the US National Herbarium. Frontiers of Biogeography 2.3 Courtesy of the International Biogeography Society.

Search for records by one or more of the following:

Select the first field for sorting:
Taxonomic Name   Country   Primary Collector
Year of Collection   Publication (record format only)

Output format: List Format   Complete Record




Primary Collector


Sheet Number

[Georeferencing plants goes here.]

We thank the following members of the Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution-NMNH, for their contributions to the georeferencing and databasing required for this project:

Alexander, S. N., Data Manager for the Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield (BDG) Program.

Feuillet, C., Research Associate.

Hansel, M., Contractor (former) and Volunteer.

Kelloff, C. L., Assistant Director for the BDG Program.

Tuccinardi, C., Data Manager, Department of Botany.


The project "Georeferencing Plants of the Guiana Shield: US Types" displays the geographical location where the Types were collected using KML files (KML is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser such as Google Earth).

To obtain the LAT/LONG coordinates we have used different sources depending on the information available on the label for each collection.

Source of Coordinates.


We have used the coordinates found in the Gazetteers (listed below) as a starting point to identify the localities given in the Type labels. The Gazeetters by the Defense Mapping Agency were:

  • Gazetteer of Guyana, May 1993
  • Gazetteer of French Guiana, February 1993
  • Gazetteer of Suriname, January 1993
  • Gazetteer of Venezuela, April 1993

In these gazetteers the latitude/longitude coordinates are listed only in degree and minutes (DM) rather than degree, minutes, and seconds (DMS). This can result in apparent plotting discrepancies of up to about a kilometer—at the equator one minute is equivalent to 1.9 km.

Specimen Label Information.

  • Coordinates in the label. Some collections have Latitude and Longitude coordinates on their labels. (some of these coordinates are given as an area approximation, but in others cases, like the most recent collections are given as a precise position).
  • Distance information. In some cases the locality information includes some distance information. (i.e.: French Guiana, 1 km north of mouth of Rio Iaue.)
  • Additional locality information. (i.e.: Western extremity of Kanuku Mountains, in drainage of Takutu River).
  • Elevation. Some collections have elevation information.
  • Two different places. Some labels have two different localities names, (i.e. Membarú-Kurupung trail). We put the collection approximately half way between them.


We have used a variety of maps available through BDG.

Google Earth 3D Viewer resolution.

Google Earth 3D Viewer resolution images allow us to more precise Georeferencing. For example, if the Gazetteer coordinates of a creek or a populated place don't match (due to the fact that they are in DM) with it in the Google Earth 3D Viewer, we have corrected them in the 3D Viewer.

Knowledge of the area.

BDG and CSBD staff and other scientists who have worked in the Shield area have provided valuable information on difficult to find locations.


Maguire, B. 1945. Notes on the Geology and Geography of Tafelberg, Surinam. Geographical Review, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 563–579.

Maguire, B. 1948. Plant Explorations in Guiana in 1944, Chiefly to the Tafelberg and the Kaieteur Plateau-I.Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 75, No. 1, pp. 56–115.

Maguire, B. and C. D. Reynolds. 1955. Cerro de la Neblina, Amazonas, Venezuela. Geographical Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 27–51.

Maguire, B. and J. J. Wurdack. 1959. Geographical record:The position of Cerro de la Neblina. Geographical Review, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 566–569.

Maguire, B. et al. 1981. The botany of the Guayana Highland XI. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, Vol. 32, pp. 1–391.

Cowan, R. S. 1952. Plant Explorations of G. Wilson-Browne, S. J., in British Guiana. I. Kanuku Mountains. Brittonia, Vol. 7, No. 5, pp. 389–414.

Gleason, H. A. 1931. Botanical Results of the Tyler-Duida Expedition. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp. 277–344.

Hitchcock, C. B.; Phelps, W. H. Jr. and Galavis, F. A. 1947. The Orinoco-Ventuari Region, Venezuela. Geographical Review, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 525–566.

Huber, O. 1995. Geographical and Physical Features. Pages 1–61. In: Steyermark, J.A., P. E. Berry and B. K. Hoist (general editors). Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana, volume 1. Introduction. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Tate, G. H. H. and C. B. Hitchcock. 1930. The Cerro Duida Region of Venezuela. Geographical Review, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 31–52.

About Google Earth

Google Earth must to be installed on your computer to open the kml files. You can download Google Earth here.

Google Earth Tips.

  • Once you have obtained your results on the "Search" section, if you click on the GE link, a dialog box will appear.
  • Open the file in Google Earth. The file will appear on Temporary Places.
Screen shot of Google Earth map.
  • Google Earth ZoomWith a double click on the icon in the Places Panel, Google Earth will zoom into the collection locality.
  • A click on the placemark icon in the 3D viewer, will open the specimen information balloon.
You can find more information in the Google Earth User Guide Web site.

[ TOP ]