The Botany and Herbarium department at RHS Wisley recently ran a Herbarium Workshop for Collection holders, hosted by Chris Whitehouse, Keeper of the Herbarium, with Barry Phillips and Mandeep Matharu.
The importance of Herbarium samples as a permanent record of a plant and its name was highlighted, shown in some beautiful historical herbarium records. The colour of the specimen itself might not be accurate once dried so a comparison with the RHS colour charts when pressing the plant is a key part of the Herbarium sample.
The RHS holds 80,000 specimens, and recognises their importance to future generations as it has plans to expand their holding space. They are in the process digitally scanning all their specimens along with a barcode, colour chart and scale, so that they can be accessed around the world for plant identification using JSTOR Plant Science.
Taking photographs of plants to show all their characteristics including their local habitat is a very useful record as it is easy and quick, but it is important to correctly name the plant on each photo. As with herbarium samples there can be a problem with accurate colour representation.
During the workshop participants had the chance to collect and record their own specimen, practice colour comparison, press and mount their specimens using standard size/weights of paper.
Holders can collect and press their own samples, sending them to the RHS for mounting, but it is vital to record all the relevant data. They can also mount the specimens themselves but this needs to be done on standard sizes/weight of paper. Further information can be found at www.plantheritage.org.uk, under Collection holder resources.
This workshop was extremely valuable to Collection holders, and I hope they really enjoy creating herbarium samples of their collections.