Thursday, May 27, 2010

What is a herbarium?
A herbarium is a collection of pressed plant specimens housed according to taxonomic groups. Each specimen is identified to species and annotated with information about where and when it was obtained and who collected it. These specimens consist of both local plants as well as a wide range of species from around the world.
What is a herbarium used for?
Herbaria contain specimens collected throughout the history of botanical exploration in an area. The herbarium documents not only current patterns of plant diversity but also how those patterns have changed throughout historical times. This kind of information is essential for understanding what our landscapes looked like before intensive human settlement and how our activities have altered plant communities, which is useful for focusing biodiversity conservation efforts. Herbarium specimens are also used as sources of DNA for molecular genetics, biotechnology and phylogenetics, etc.
Who uses a herbarium?
The three main purposes of a herbarium are research, teaching and public education. The collection is used by scientists and environmental consultants engaged in studies involving environmental impact, plant ecology, evolution, systematics, paleobotany and biodiversity studies. Many herbaria are also used by students in university courses or graduate research projects.    


Status in INDIA

India is one of the 12-megadiversity nations of the world. The rich and varied biodiversity of India is India’s greatest strength and is the bedrock for bioindustrial development. The rich biodiversity of India is also matched with an equally rich cultural diversity and indigenous knowledge systems particularly in food and health care traditions such as Ayurveda and Sidha. There are about 54 herbaria in India ( that hold a huge number of herbarium specimen which are a very valuable source of information of biodiversity of the country. However, there exists no comprehensive database, particularly quantitative information such as authentic nomenclature, distribution, availability of infraspecific variability, uses, etc. of plant specimens stored in the various herbaria of India.
Map of India showing the various herbaria in the country

Additional Reading
Where is located the Blatter Herbarium in India?
Mumbai St.Xaviers College

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