Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Herbaria large and small. 

Sir Hans Sloane's herbarium sheets at NHM
The herbarium at the Natural History Museum is a wonder to behold. It houses the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, the C17th Irish collector.
His 265 volumes of pressed specimens are housed (each in its own temperature- and humidity-controlled cabinet) in a purpose-built special collections room.  


Cabinets housing the Sloane volumes
You can see them for yourself, and also see some of the Natural History Museum's other specimens by celebrated collectors, like Darwin himself, if you join one of our behind-the-scenes Herbarium tours at the Annual Exhibition meeting in November. 

If you received your copy of BSBI News today, it contains a flyer about the AEM. Almost 3,000 fellow members received the same flyer as you, so if you want to join a herbarium tour, you'd better get your application in soon - the list fills up rapidly! 

But some herbaria are much more humble. BSBI Administrator Clive Lovatt has a small herbarium at home, housed in a cabinet once owned by a hero of his, J.W. White, author of the Flora of Bristol (1912). 
Clive's modest but much-loved herbarium
Image: C. Lovatt

Clive tells me, "My herbarium is overflowing - I need to buy another cabinet! We've found lots of interesting alien species around Bristol this year: the bronze New Zealand Carex comans self-sown in a paved street a few miles away (new to Somerset) and I've had two Physalis species without so much as going near a sewage works (which is where the last Bristol records were)". 

I expect that Clive has pressed some specimens of these interesting alien species for his herbarium. Just as Sir Hans Sloane, J. W. White and many other botanists have done before him. 

Want to leave a comment and tell me about your herbarium?