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Compilation of herbal plants (description, geographical distribution, taxonomy, line drawings), biodiversity and herbarium.

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Functions

Last updated: 18 February 2021
 
Its importance as a repository of records defined its role in the study of botanical taxonomic research. The standard and well established method of preparation and treatment of herbarium specimen benefits botanists all over the world. Its idea is simple yet serves its role in performing its general purpose in botanical studies, by allowing expansion and elaboration of its study areas. [1]

In a broader view, the purposes of a herbarium [1] are as:

  • a storage of reference materials that are arranged and indexed for ease of retrieval and referencing.
  • a means of nomenclatural management, for the identification of unknown or doubtful specimens, done by way of matching with named specimens in the collections. Thus it is crucial that collections be properly indexed, arranged according to taxonomical relationships.
  • an authority that maintains the historical path of nomenclature. It preserves the nomenclatural standards whilst entailing revisionary works.
  • a comprehensive databank that represents a description of the plant’s distribution and the region’s vegetation.
In keeping up with the evolution of data management and sharing, the role has been extended to not just physical collection and use but also virtual in the form of digitization of herbarium materials. This exercise allows for digital cataloguing, data and image storing hence promoting ‘virtual visitors’ that may access the information without having to physically visit the collection centres / herbarium.[2]

Advantages of herbarium specimens

Specimens provide a lot of contribution in terms of economy and scientific needs to society and for the benefit of future generations. They offer benefits to society by providing reference materials for critical endeavours such as agriculture, human health, biosecurity, forensics, to control of invasive species, conservation biology, natural resources, and land management.[3][4]

Practical worth of herbarium specimens [4] are as follows:

  • to provide samples for plants identification for basic functions and research such as confirm the new species, provide material for DNA analysis, and to trace the history of usage of binomials for a given taxon in a given area.
  • to produce collection vital to the biological research such as provide pollen for taxonomic, systematic, and pollination studies as well as allergy studies, provide reference samples for the identification of plants eaten by animals, and to document biogeography of past plant distributions including regional extinctions.
  • Can be used as an educational resource that serves as a standard reference for graduate students; provide material for teaching; promote appreciation of botanical diversity by making specimens available for viewing by students, researchers and the public, etc.
  • Serving as an educational tool for the public (garden clubs, school groups, etc.); providing a focal point for botanical information exchange of all types (lectures, club meetings, etc.); providing samples for museum and educational exhibits; and facilitating international exchange of field expeditions.
  • Opportunities for money making ventures such as organizing plant photography sessions associated with voucher collections and helping with the design of natural history products for sale in gift shops (e.g. old illustrations for note cards).

References

  1. Bridson D, Forman L, eds.. The herbarium handbook (Revised edition). Kew, London: Royal Botanic Gardens; 1992.
  2. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Herbarium digitisation. [homepage on the internet]. London: Kew Gardens [cited 2021 Feb 18] Available from: https://www.kew.org/data/herb_digitisation.html 
  3. The Plant Press. The importance of herbaria [homepage on the Internet] [updated 2002 Jul 29; cited 2021 Feb 18] Available from: https://nmnh.typepad.com/the_plant_press/2002/07/plant-press-2002-vol-5-issue-3-1.html 
  4. Funk V. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Virtual Herbarium. 100 uses for a herbarium [homepage on the Internet]. c2007 [cited 2021 Feb 18] Available from: http://www.virtualherbarium.org/vh/100usesaspt.html 

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