The New York Botanical Garden


Douglas C. Daly

B. A. Krukoff Curator of Amazonian Botany, Institute of Systematic Botany

Ph.D., City University of New York (1987)
Expertise: systematics of Burseraceae; floristics of Amazonia; leaf architecture


My research revolves around tropical tree systematics and the flora of the Amazon region, focusing on the pantropical frankincense and myrrh family Burseraceae and the flora of southwestern Amazonia. Initially, my work on the Burseraceae was purely taxonomic, but in recent years I have expanded into the molecular systematics, biogeography, pollen morphology, germination patterns, seedling morphology, and leaf architecture of the group, plus fruit dispersal, due in large part to stimulating collaborations with graduate students and colleagues in a number of countries. I became sufficiently interested in the potential applications of leaf architecture in systematics and conservation that I have completed projects with students on several plant groups, and I am a co-author of a newly published manual of leaf architecture.

I have collaborated with NYBG Honorary Curator John Mitchell for many years on projects and publications about the closely related Anacardiaceae or cashew nut family, and recently we formed with four other researchers a consortium to study the remarkably different evolutionary trajectories of this family and the Burseraceae.

The Burseraceae comprise one of the most difficult, diverse, and ecologically important tree families in Amazonia. Most species are found in primary upland vegetation, and in any given part of the region the family shows high density, high diversity, or both, as is the case in central Amazonia, where up to ten percent of the trees are Burseraceae. As such, the family constitutes an excellent tool for examining the phytogeography of Amazonia and other regions.

My geographical interest in the Amazon region centers on the Brazilian state of Acre, but my collaborators and I have been expanding our focus and activities to embrace the whole southwestern quadrant of Amazonia. Through our own work and supplemented by recruitment and training, we have been able to complete a spectrum of projects in the region, including a preliminary checklist of the flora, an analysis of its floristic affinities, ethnobotanical studies of rubber-tapper and indigenous communities, management and commercialization of specific non-timber forest products, the ecology of the bamboo forests that characterize the region, characterization of other vegetation types, a manual of the palms of Acre, and a glossary of common names for plants in Acre, among others.

I have always believed that it is not only possible but actually incumbent on botanists to apply their research results to real-world problems. In Acre, by making our research program an indispensible source of information on the plant resources of southwestern Amazonia, my Brazilian collaborators and I have been able to advance conservation and help guide public policy in a number of ways, including participating directly in the state zoning project as well as a new trinational consortium, providing justifications for the creation of new conservation units, advising government agencies and forest communities on standards and protocols for certification of managed forests, and helping to monitor the impacts of a new highway that will ultimately link Amazonia to the Pacific Ocean.

Selected Publications

Daly, D. C., M. Silveira, & collaborators 2008. First Catalogue of the Flora of Acre, Brazil/Primeiro Catálogo da Flora do Acre, Brasil. EDUFAC, Rio Branco.

Ellis, B., D. C. Daly, K. R. Johnson, J. D. Mitchell, P. Wilf & S. L. Wing (in press). Manual of Leaf Architecture. Cornell University Press.

Daly, D. C. 2007. The local branch: Toward better management of production forests in Amazonia. Public Garden 22(2): 12-15.

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