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Classification and Visualization: Explorations in SUNY Oneonta's Herbarium

April 23-June 9, 2024































Poster design by Victoria Villaverde.

Classification and Visualization: Explorations in SUNY Oneonta’s Herbarium

Further Readings on Herbaria 
Compiled by Sarah Simpson

The Importance of Herbaria

US National Herbarium

Department of Systematic Biology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution

Herbaria, dried pressed plant specimens and their associated collections data and library materials, are remarkable and irreplaceable sources of information about plants and the world they inhabit. They provide the comparative material that is essential for studies in taxonomy, systematics, ecology, anatomy, morphology, conservation biology, biodiversity, ethnobotany, and paleobiology, as well as being used for teaching and by the public. They are a veritable gold mine of information.  There are more than 60 million specimens in 628 herbaria in the USA, and seven million specimens in 110 herbaria in Canada. Nearly five million are held at the US National Herbarium housed at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Herbaria can be used to:
  1. Discover or confirm the identity of a plant or determine that it is new to science (taxonomy);
  2. Document the concepts of the specialists who have studied the specimens in the past (taxonomy);
  3. Provide locality data for planning field trips (taxonomy, systematics, teaching);
  4. Provide data for floristic studies (taxonomy);
  5. Serve as a repository of new collections (taxonomy and systematics);
  6. Provide data for revisions and monographs (systematics);
  7. Verify Latin plant names (nomenclature);
  8. Serve as a secure repository for “type” specimens (taxonomy);
  9. Provide infrastructure for obtaining loans, etc., of research material (taxonomy, systematics);
  10. Facilitate and promote the exchange of new material among institutions (taxonomy);
  11. Allow for the documentation of flowering and fruiting times and juvenile forms of plants (taxonomy, systematics, ecology, phenology);
  12. Provide the basis for an illustration of a plant (taxonomy, general publishing);
  13. Provide pollen for taxonomic, systematic, and pollination studies as well as allergy studies (taxonomy, systematics, pollination ecology, insect ecology, medical studies);
  14. Provide samples for the identification of plants eaten by animals (animal ecology);
  15. Document which plants grew where through time (invasive species, climate change, habitat destruction, etc.);
  16. Document what plants grew with what other plants (ecology);
  17. Document the morphology and anatomy of individuals of a particular species in different locations (environmental variation);
  18. Provide material for microscopic observations (anatomy, morphology);
  19. Serve as a repository for voucher specimens (ecology, environmental impact studies, etc.);
  20. Provide material for DNA analysis (systematics, evolution, genetics);
  21. Provide material for chemical analysis (pollution documentation; bio-prospecting, for coralline algae - determining past ocean temperatures and chemical concentration);
  22. Provide material for teaching (botany, taxonomy, field botany, plant communities);
  23. Provide information for studies of expeditions and explorers (history of science);
  24. Provide the label data necessary for accurate data-basing of specimens (biodiversity and conservation biology, biogeography);
  25. Serve as a reference library for the identification of parts of plants found in archeology digs (paleoethnobotany);
  26. Provide space and context for accompanying library and other bibliographic resources (library sciences, general research, taxonomy, etc.);
  27. Serve as an archive for related material (field notebooks, letters, reprints, etc.);
  28. Provide information on common names and local uses of plants (ethnobotany, economic botany);
  29. Provide samples for the identification of plants that may be significant to criminal investigations (forensics);
  30. Serve as a means of locating rare or possibly extinct species via recollecting areas listed on label data (conservation biology, environmental impact statements, endangered species, etc.);
  31. Serve as an educational tool for the public (garden clubs, school groups, etc.); and
  32. Provide a focal point for botanical interactions of all types (lectures, club meetings, etc.).