What is a herbarium?

   A herbarium is a collection of dried plants preserved for purposes of study. An older Latin name is the hortus siccus, or dry garden. If a plant be not too large it may be preserved, root and all. The botanist desires two specimens of each flowering plant, one in bloom, the other in fruit. Small plants are pressed entire. Characteristic portions of larger plants are selected. The collector places his specimens between thin sheets for convenience in handling. They are then dried under pressure between sheets of blotting or other bibulous paper. The blotters should be changed and dried at least daily in order to preserve the natural colors of the plant. When dry, the specimens are mounted on heavy paper of uniform size, usually eleven and one-half by seventeen and one-half inches. Each specimen is accompanied by a label giving the botanical name, the date and locality of collection, with such other information as to soil and altitude as may be of interest. Such specimens, laid away in jackets and preserved in cabinets, last for centuries. Specimens put away by Linnaeus, Hooker, and Gray are still in excellent condition, and are regarded by botanists as priceless. The British have been the most noted collectors. The most famous herbarium in the world is perhaps that of Kew near London. The British Museum and the London Linnaean society, the Universities of Paris, Leyden, Berlin, and Vienna have very valuable herbariums. The most valuable collection in the United States is probably the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University. Next to that comes the United States National Herbarium at Washington. The University of California, the Shaw Botanical Garden, and the New York Botanical Garden possess many specimens from which new species were named.