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New Herbarium Space Completed

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) has been a recognized herbarium by Index Herbariorum (IH), the official database of worldwide herbaria maintained by the New York Botanical Garden, since 2010. A herbarium is like a library for plants. Preserved plants are stored, cataloged and arranged systematically for historic record and research.

As the ANHC’s herbarium has grown, so has the need for a larger storage space designed specifically for it. As an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH), the ANHC moved into offices at the newly constructed DAH headquarters in August 2016.The ANHC’s new space included a room for the herbarium, with climate control providing the reduced temperature and humidity necessary for long-term specimen protection. Once the ANHC moved into its new office space, customized compact storage cabinets (like those you see for archives and museum storage) had to be ordered to specifications and built on site within the new herbarium.

Work crews finished installing custom-built compactor shelving in December and the herbarium space is now complete. ANHC botanists have been busy moving our permanent collection into the new space, a process that requires specific steps to protect the specimens from two main threats: insects and moisture. Insects are managed by keeping all incoming specimens in a freezer for 14 days to ensure that they are insect-free before they are brought into the main collection. The new herbarium room is also on a separate climate control system from the rest of the ANHC office, which allows the collection to be kept at lower temperature and humidity. This helps protect against moisture but also helps prevent insect problems by creating unfavorable breeding conditions. Further lines of defense include regular examination of insect-prone plant families like the sunflower family (Asteraceae), milkweed family (Apocynaceae), and rose family (Rosaceae) and periodic freezing, in batches, of the entire collection.

Once specimens are in the main collection, they are filed according to kind, organized alphabetically by family, genus, and species. Within a species, they are arranged alphabetically by the county from which they were collected. This allows ANHC botanists to efficiently locate any specimen in the collection.

ANHC is one of eight recognized herbaria in Arkansas. The ANHC herbarium has the capacity to store approximately 200,000 specimens.

Photos: Top left -- Herbarium compactors.

Top right: Close-up of shelving and specimens. 

Left: Example of an herbarium specimen.


Above: Herbarium specimens line a table in the ANHC lab.





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