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WHAT IS A HERBARIUM? | The Society of Herbarium Curators

WHAT IS A HERBARIUM?

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In the most simplistic view, a herbarium is a library or archive of plant specimens stored in cabinets (as depicted on the SHC homepage). These specimens may be arranged alphabetically by family or phylogenetically, and organization is entirely dependent on the preference of the herbarium curator. The curator is a museum steward, responsible for overseeing the daily operations and care of the plant collection.
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Selected materials for plant collection and preservation.
A plant "press".


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Plants are collected in the field, then pressed and dried to preseve pigmentation and most morphological features of the taxon. This process creates near permanent records of a given plant, which is then processed into a voucher specimen.

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Herbarium specimens are indespenible resevoirs of information and are the keystone of taxonomic study. Plant morphology, phenology, DNA, and etc. can be ascertained from the tangible dried plant, while the label provides biogeographic information regarding locality, habitat preference, etc.

(Photos/Text: Derick B. Poindexter)


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