Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Department of Botany

Joseph Rothrock

The U.S. National Herbarium houses tens of thousands of plant specimens collected on scores of historic exploring expeditions. The expeditions traveled to diverse locations around the world in an effort to become more informed about a specific area and its natural resources. Further goals of the expeditions were quite varied, and ranged from finding a route for a new railroad to opening trade with foreign countries. They all, however, encompassed an element of scientific inquiry. The expedition parties included various professionals in fields such as botany, geology, and zoology, each working tirelessly to collect specimens, transport them on the journey, and document their surroundings. Today, the plant specimens these botanists collected have become an important source of information regarding plant species, and each is a valuable artifact documenting the history of United States exploration.

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