Recently, staff from the Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and Preservation departments toured the Ada Hayden Herbarium in Bessey Hall.
A herbarium is a collection of dried horticultural specimens arranged for reference and study; the Ada Hayden Herbarium holds over 650,000 vascular plant, bryophyte, fungus, and lichen specimens, including many holotypes. These specimens are studied by researchers coming to work in the herbarium and packed and shipped to researchers across the United States and around the world.
The plants are flattened, dried, and frozen before they are filed in storage. The freezing process insures that any critters that may arrive on the plants are not able to start an infestation in the collection. Information about each plant is carefully collected including the scientific names, name of the locator, and where the plant was found. Deb explained that if properly preserved, the plant specimens can be kept for study indefinitely; including those collected as far back as 1894 by George Washington Carver!
You’ll notice on the above picture there is a lighter rectangle above the handwritten information about the plant. This is a little envelope for pieces of the plant that may have been removed for study (with specific permission from the herbarium). Every effort is made to ensure that as much of the original plant is kept for research into the future.
In addition to the plant specimens, the herbarium also has a library of horticulture books for easy access for researchers. It was fascinating to see the herbarium and learn about how they preserve the delicate plant specimens. To learn more please see their site!