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Tim with his dog Pogo Erythroxylum is a genus of tropical trees and shrubs, mainly neotropical, best known for the species Erythroxylum coca L., from which commercial cocaine is derived. These neotropical species were the focus of intense systematic and ethnobotanic study by Dr. Timothy Plowman for about 15 years until his untimely death in 1989. Because of his work, the Field Museum is the most important repository in the world of research collections and literature pertaining to the classification of this important genus. Plowman collected over 700 specimens of the genus from South America, and the Field Museum collection contains over 5,000 specimens collected worldwide.

Although Dr. Plowman succeeded in publishing about 50 scientific papers on Erythroxylum during his short career, he never was able to complete a treatment of the genus for Flora Neotropica. He did, however, leave behind massive data resources.

Timothy Plowman biography
Tim with his dog Pogo


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The Erythroxylum database incorporates specimen information from his original cardfile of over 9,000 records. It includes specimens seen by Plowman not only at the Field Museum but at many herbaria worldwide, over the course of his career. It was clearly a work in progress. The identifications assigned to Field Museum collections, and presumably also to those deposited at other major American herbaria (e.g., MO, NY) are likely to be more reliable than those of some European herbaria recorded earlier in his career. Additional records from the Field Museum herbarium, accessioned through the year 2000, have been added. Images are also available for over 250 Erythroxylum types.

Many thanks are due to Field Museum, Botany Department staff members Dr. Nancy Hensold who prepared the data for publication, to Gail Kushino and Laura Torres, who helped with data entry and volunteer Lillian Vanek, who maintained the cardfile for Dr. Plowman. Please send all comments, questions and requests to: Christine Niezgoda.


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