The effectiveness and limitations of digital images for taxonomic research

Aireen Suet Lin Phang* (Corresponding Author), Hannah Atkins, Peter Wilkie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In response to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, which effectively shut down fieldwork, laboratory and herbarium-based studies, an evaluation was made of the effectiveness and limitations of undertaking a virtual taxonomic study using only online herbarium specimen resources related to the genus Madhuca (Sapotaceae) for the Flora of Singapore. The study demonstrated the immense value of digital images to basic taxonomic research but also found that diagnostic micro-morphological characters, often critical in defining species boundaries, cannot be seen in many digital images, even at high resolution. Several recommendations are made on how to maximise the utility of online herbarium specimen images to help facilitate future taxonomic research, though it is clear that physical access to herbarium specimens remains essential.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1063-1076
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2022


  • Madhuca
  • Sapotaceae
  • digitisation
  • flora account
  • herbarium specimens
  • morphology


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