Beautiful Old Herbarium Specimens

CatesbyNH1_237_t113

High five to our state botanist, Todd Crabtree, for alerting us to the Botanica Caroliniana webpage, “An evolving digital library focused on the botanical history of the Carolinas. Focusses of research are digital imagery of botanical specimens from the Sloane Herbarium in London, with associated electronic texts, data collections, and indices.”

Here you can see photos of actual plant specimens collected by Mark Catesby and William Bartram on their botanical forays throughout the Southeast. Todd’s comment, “Location data is vague at best but it’s cool just to be able to see these specimens. From the label on a 1742 John Bartram specimen of Gentiana crinita – ‘the flower continueth long in its beauty if severe freezing doth not destroy it’.”

On the subject of the fragile old plant specimens, Blackwell and Blackwell write, “The dried specimens ironically still represent the state of the art in botanical taxonomy, which continues to rely on herbarium specimens for vouchers and types. Catesby and his herbarium curators created these specimens for an audience of scientists. The dried plants are “real” in a way that the painted illustrations can never be. There is no artistic license in adding or subtracting details; the only artistry involved is in the presentation of the objects on the page. Because of this enforced honesty, the dried specimens still contain details that botanists can use to distinguish between species, such as length of petioles or number of petals. We can perform this exercise today because Catesby took such care preparing his specimens. “

Enjoy!

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