The Botany Libraries can offer a wide variety of help with your research on botany, natural history, history of science, and other related subjects. There are many unique botanical resources available. Here are a few of the resources we find helpful in botanical research. You may need to log into some of them with your HarvardKey.

General electronic resources

  • Web of Science is one of the most useful citation indexes that we use. You can access it using this HOLLIS record: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990076596620203941/catalog Here’s a tip: Choose “all databases” when you get to Web of Science. This will give you a greater span of results.
  • JSTOR’s Global Plants database (http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990138147760203941/catalog) will give you links to images of plant specimens, with links to related literature, when available.
  • The Biodiversity Heritage Library (biodiversitylibrary.org) is a treasure trove of high-quality scans of natural history books, journals, and other resources. Most of the materials are out of copyright (published before 1925), but there are some newer works there.


Early botanical books and journals often include beautiful scientific illustrations. Finding a specific illustration can be tricky, but we can suggest a few resources.

Biographical information on naturalists

  • Taxonomic literature : a selective guide to botanical publications with dates, commentaries and types (commonly known as TL-2) is an authoritative guide to taxonomic publications and their authors. The online version is here: https://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollections/tl-2/.
  • Biographical notes upon botanists by John Barnhart (http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990072868380203941/catalog) is not online but it is a fantastic resource, particularly for obscure botanists.
  • Another great resource is the Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists by Ray Desmond (http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990040949120203941/catalog). It includes botany-adjacent occupations such as collectors, illustrators, and landscape designers. It is not available online.
  • Created by researchers at the Harvard University Herbaria, the Index of Botanists (https://kiki.huh.harvard.edu/databases/botanist_index.html) is another great resource. It is particularly strong in information about the geographic or taxonomic specialties of the botanists.       
  • For biographic and bibliographic information about scientific illustrators, try the Database of Scientific Illustrators (https://dsi.hi.uni-stuttgart.de/). This specialized database has information on illustrators active from approximately 1450 to 1950.
  • For a broad range of subjects, try the World Biographical Information System (http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990088427090203941/catalog). It features a powerful search interface that helps you find the person you’re looking for.
  • The biographical information at Ancestry (http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:ancestry) is often linked to scanned primary source material.

Taxonomy and nomenclature

Literature on taxonomy (classifying organisms) and nomenclature (naming organisms) is one of the great strengths of the Botany Libraries. Here are a few resources we frequently use.

  • The International Plant Name Index (ipni.org) is a collaboration that indexes the names of vascular plants. It spans from 1753 to today and is indispensable.
  • The Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/welcome.html) presents a modern system of classification, based on the evolutionary relationships between flowering plants. It’s a very thorough exploration of the topic.
  • Index Fungorum (indexfungorum.org). As IPNI indexes vascular plants, Index Fungorum indexes names of fungi. There are also links to several other good fungal references on this page.
  • The International Fossil Plant Name Index (fossilplants.info). This is just what it sounds like. It includes both vascular plants and fungi.


Along with its print & electronic collections, the Botany Libraries also have rich collections of archival materials (letters, manuscripts, photos, and more).

  • You can search for archives about a topic in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery (https://hollisarchives.lib.harvard.edu/). Here you will find a wealth of information about the primary source materials available at Harvard. If you want to consult archival material at the Botany Libraries, please use your HOLLIS Special Collections account to request an appointment. You can also email botref@oeb.harvard.edu and we will help you schedule an appointment.
  • Archival material beyond Harvard can be discovered using ArchiveGrid (https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/).

More questions?

I welcome you to send questions to me (gwade@oeb.harvard.edu) or to the Botany Libraries general email (botref@oeb.harvard.edu). More information about the Botany Libraries can be found here: https://huh.harvard.edu/libraries.

Belgique horticole, 1857. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/42987703

Belgique horticole, 1857.