Staff Spotlight – David E. Boufford

August 20, 2020
David E. Boufford

Dr. David E. Boufford began at the HUH as a Research Associate in 1981. He went on to be a Curatorial Taxonomist at The Arnold Arboretum and then Assistant Director for Collections and Research Taxonomist back at the HUH. Dave has held the title of Senior Research Scientist since 2006. Dave’s interests are wide, but he has a particular interest in the vascular plants of temperate to subtropical eastern Asia, their diversity and patterns of distribution, and how they relate to the plants of North America. He has authored or co-authored numerous manuscripts, books, and reviews.

Please share with me when you first became interested in botany.

I was always interested in nature for as long as I can remember and always enjoyed seeing and exploring new places, first in my backyard then around the world.


Where did you gain the foundation of your education?

I started checking out books on nature from our public library from the time I was old enough to have a library card, but never studied the sciences more than required until college.


Did you have a mentor?

Several people were helpful along the way, especially David Gregory, Harold Goder and Ed Gianferrari at Keene State College in Keene, NH, and Harry Ahles at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, and Peter Raven at Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO.


What was your most exciting discovery?

Seeing in nature the plants I saw as specimens collected by Joseph Rock.


Do you have a specimen that is the most cherished?

No, I like all of them.


What do you like the most about your job?

Being able to explore new places, seeing the plants in their natural environment, trying to determine their distribution and variation, add specimens to the Harvard Herbaria from previously unexplored areas and to add specimens of plants not previously represented in the herbarium, providing specimens and plant material to researchers around the world who would not otherwise have access to it; being able to collaborate with others around the world, especially with researchers in eastern Asia.


What would you like the next generation to seek out?

More field work is needed, even in supposedly well-known areas. About 200 new species per year have been discovered in China over the past 20 years and the number does not appear to be decreasing. Much can be learned from seeing the plants in the field and the interactions with their environment. These are things that cannot be learned in the herbarium.


Is there anything else you would like to share?

I'm always willing to share anything I have. If of interest, you can see some of the collaborative projects by searching for Boufford, David E in HOLLIS.