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Herbarium issues

Ross Koning Koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Thu Sep 21 15:51:55 EST 1995

>>On 20 Sep 1995, scott meissner wrote:

>>       *What insecticides/fungicides are
>> good for treating new specimens?  The
>> cabinets are in a lecture room so I would
>> prefer to use items that are not extremely
>> toxic to humans.

If your herbarium has a drying cabinet for
specimen preparation (where you put the press
with fresh specimens), I recommend putting new
specimens in there for a few days to make sure
the new specimens are completely dry, and also
to heat-kill some of the "critters."

If you are sure of infestation, one could use
a light spray of malathion, but I would do that
in a standard chemical exhaust hood in a chem

In the herbarium cabinets, most people put moth
balls (paradichlorobenzene) to prevent moth larvae
and relatives from feeding on the dried specimens.

>>       *I am slowly cataloging the collection.
>> When I have a list put together is there a way
>> to let the rest of the world know what we have?
>> Is there an online list of herbaria?  Should I
>> send the list to an organization, if so which
>> one?  I have not finished even a fourth of the
>> collection, but we have two with Asa Gray's name
>> on them and many specimens from the 1800's!

I don't have a good answer to your question, but here
is a WWW URL that is really neat for looking up things
botanical on the internet:


Maybe you can set up your own herbarium WWW site?!

>>       *There are some specimens that are from
>> locations I do not have keys for.  I am using
>> Gray's manual of Botany for eastern plants, and
>> I also have Gleason and Cronquist.  Could someone
>> recommend a good key for central and western flora
>> of the US?

I've been in the northeast too long to help with
western flora.  I would note however, that you cannot
find complete agreement between the two manuals you
are using.  Sometimes it is best to use only one
source and stick with it.

>>       *Some specimens are so old that I fear the
>> genus and species have been reorganized since their
>> first identification.  Also there are others that I
>> can not key out (I am in fact a dumb plant physiologist).
>> Are there places where specimens can be sent for a
>> confirmation of their identification?


I too am a plant physiologist, and am pressed
into operating the greenhouse and herbarium also.
Our herbarium is a real taxonomic mess that I will
probably never be able to sort out completely.

I have taken the "family" approach to organizing
the plants.  So the sheets are organized by family
(which seems to be taxonomically fairly stable).
For binomials, I have let the contributors
determine these under their own authority with the
indication on the label of the authority they have
used.  Let the looker beware!  Even if I brought
the binomials up to the latest "accepted"
synonyms, I would find my work undone in a few
years by some future taxonomist.  So I have not
tried to correct the sheets in our collection.
It is just too much work and I have too little

I guess that makes me a "dumb" physiologist, but
a very practical kind of guy with time to work
with my students (not wasted on sheet shuffling)
doing some experimental plant biology.  As you
can see, precise cataloging to me is not how I
want to spend my time.  I love teaching real

When it comes time to publish, if I have not used
some agricultural cultivar, I send a specimen to
a real authority for identification.  This specimen
has to be complete (root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit,
seed) and pressed so that all parts can be observed
by the authority (flowers pressed in different views
particularly one "open" to see inner parts, etc).
Binomials for agricultural cultivars are less
important than the cultivar itself.  The common
availablity of cultivars eliminates the need to
consult a taxonomic authority (IMHO).

Invitation to taxonomists:
If the above sounds like the "blind leading the blind"
to you, and "blasphemy" from your taxonomic point of
view, please feel free to submit better ways to
operate a herbarium, and feel free to flame me good
for my blatant physiological point of view!


Ross Koning
Biology Department                     **n**
Eastern CT State University        00    H    00
Willimantic, CT  06226  USA         \    H    /
Koning at ecsuc.ctstateu.edu            \  _H_  /
Phone: 860-465-5327                   \/   \/
Fax: 860-465-5213                ______(___)________
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