Field of Science

Well aged specimens

You never know what you'll find when poking around in the deep, dark seldom-visited corners of an herbarium. So TPP keeps getting surprises. So you find a slim folder hidden away beneath a pile of unmounted specimens and out of curiosity you take the folder out for a look see.  The folder contained 5 specimens from the Lamiaceae, the mint family, 2 species of Lamium (deadnettles) and 3 species of Nepeta (cat mints).  OK, not too remarkable really. The specimens were collected in Greece in April '61, some 53 years ago. But the paper looks pretty old and clearly the specimens should be remounted, which fortunately can be done. The collector was Von Heldreich (Theodor), a German naturalist who lived from 1822 until 1902 making these specimens 153 years old actually. One wonders how long they had been at the bottom of that stack and why?  Although hand-written in European script, the labels are legible enough once you work out a letter or two. Who knows? The species names have been entered into the database. They are all new species to our collection, so species folder labels have been printed, and the specimens moved to a new pile, a pile awaiting some volunteer action to remount them on modern acid-free paper. Once this is done they'll be good for another 150 years.  This is one aspect of herbarium curation.

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