What is a Herbarium?

Stephen Saupe and students Stephen Saupe Ricinus communis

Stephen G. Saupe, CSB/SJU Biology Department professor and herbarium curator describes a herbarium as “a collection of pressed, dried, labeled and identified plants; in essence, a reference library of plants.” Herbarium specimens are used to identify plants and their habitats.

Typically, plants collected in the field are arranged between thin sheets of absorbent paper and dried in a plant press. The dried specimens are then mounted on sheets of stiff white paper, and labelled with all essential data. Both the arrangement in the initial pressing and the mounting on a herbarium sheet call for a sense of artistry and precision to create an accurate representation of the plant.

Each herbarium sample is stamped with an ownership marker and an accession number. The sample is as complete as possible, including root matter and flowers when present. Some samples have a paper packet glued to them which may contain seeds or other bits that have fallen off while handling the plant. The label includes the scientific name, the common name, a description of the location where it was harvested,  notes about the habitat, and the name of the collector.

For more information:

Herbarium. (Ed.), The Oxford Companion to the Garden.: Oxford University Press, (2006).

United States National Herbariumhttps://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/botany/collections-access/collections-management-policy

What is a Herbarium?