Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Advanced Search

Department ofBotany

Tuba Receiving Gourd “Balcita”

Palmer's Journey

Palmer’s botanical collections (over 100,000 in number) reside at research institutions all over the world including Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, Missouri Botanical Garden, The New York Botanic Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the British Museum. The Palmer collection in the U.S. National Herbarium at the Smithsonian Institution remains the largest, containing over 16,000 botanical specimens collected over sixty years while Palmer worked as a Smithsonian field representative. During that time Palmer also served, at different times, as a Department of Agriculture collector and expert, and a Bureau of Ethnology ethnologist.

Staged photograph of two boys preparing tuba compostura (tuba mixed with fruit or vegetables)
Staged photograph of two
boys preparing tuba
compostura (tuba mixed with
fruit or vegetables)
Palmer’s botanical collections from Mexico, in particular, remain extremely valuable and include many plants that were new to science at the time he collected them. Palmer followed the railroad lines into little explored areas of Mexico; his observations reflected cultural changes taking place in many indigenous communities, changes catalyzed by westward expansion.

“Dr. Palmer was fortunate in being the first professional naturalist to reach this field [flora of the neighborhood of Guadalajara]. His collection included a remarkably large number of species new to science, not a few of which, conspicuous for their beauty, have subsequently come into cultivation and are now listed in the catalogues of florists and gardeners” (Safford:579).
The severed cactus pad (top right of specimen) was cut with a knife like the one depicted (right).
The severed cactus pad (left) was cut with a knife like the one depicted (right).

[ TOP ]