An award has been made to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (MSBG) under the direction of Mr. Bruce Holst for partial support of moving its Herbarium and associated materials to the main campus of the Gardens, improving the preservation of the collection by replacing the current acidic herbarium folders, and providing much needed additional storage space. In addition to relocating the Herbarium, with its 90,000 dried and mounted plant specimens, the Spirit Collection with 26,000 plant specimens stored in glass vials of preservative fluid will also be relocated. The move is a component of the master site plan and provides an opportunity for much-needed collections improvement and expansion.
This project will help preserve a scientifically significant taxonomic resource. The Selby Gardens Herbarium is a library of plant specimens used by taxonomists for plant identification and classification, which provide the base-level knowledge critical to conservation and the biological sciences. MSBG collections are particularly strong in regards to the number of epiphytic plants, such as orchids and bromeliads that live upon host plants, but which are not parasitic. In addition to on-site and off-site loan availability, many images of these specimens are available now in the virtual Herbarium on the Internet (www.selby.org). Together the Herbarium and Spirit collections preserve specimens of orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, aroids, and ferns, among others, for scientific study. MSBG has an active research program in plant classification and in other biodiversity-related research, such as alpha taxonomy (describing and naming plant species) and floristic inventories. Research programs involve research associates, visiting scientists, and interns. Hands-on learning opportunities prepare interns planning to work in taxonomy, ecology, horticulture, or environmental education.
Herbarium collections contain irreplaceable records of plant life on earth that provide, for instance, knowledge on the distribution of rare or endangered species, enabling greater opportunities for preservation. These collections are one of the most vital resources used by scientists to advance knowledge and understanding within the fields of plant classification, inventories, and conservation. The societal benefits of the project include facilitating the work of MSBG of maintaining public plant identification centers. Plant identification has societal impact because some plants are edible, but others contain poisonous compounds that, if ingested, can be lethal. Plant identification has an economic impact by allowing plant breeders/producers to correctly name their products. The upcoming move and related curatorial care will improve access to the Herbarium and will acquaint the public through tours, open houses, and greater visibility to garden visitors. The direct benefit is an increased understanding by society of the crucial role that plants play in providing the energy necessary to sustain life on earth, and much of its beauty.