On the Importance of Herbarium


Unlike most books in a library, which can be repurchased or duplicated, each herbarium specimen is truly unique. It is a representative of plant biodiversity at a particular place and time in the history of life on earth. When a specimen is lost, it can never be replaced. Even if one were to travel to the exact location where it was once collected, there is no hope of ever exactly reproducing a specimen. The role of herbaria in housing and protecting these specimens is invaluable. Herbaria are where biologists turn to identify plant species, check the validity of a newly described species, track how a species has changed over time, and even analyze how entire landscapes have been altered. If a species collected today looks different or flowers at a different time than it did a hundred years ago, a biologist seeks to explain why these changes have occurred. Molecular and chemical tests can help us to compare and evaluate compounds in specimens collected decades ago with those from specimens collected more recently. Especially in today’s world, where humans have a greater impact on the environment and plants are exposed to conditions they never would have encountered just a century ago, herbarium specimens can yield information to help us better protect our planet.

Botanical Treasures from Duke's Hidden Library

April 10, 2013-July 14, 2013

Perkins Gallery,Duke University Library, Durham, NC

Gallery is open Monday-Sunday Hours vary, please check online