The Herbarium Specimen


    Plant specimens are collected in the field, pressed flat between newspapers, and dried in a plant press.

    At the time of collection, the collector takes notes in a field-log about the possible identity of the plant, where and when it was collected, habitat characteristics including soil type and other plant associates, flower color and scent, size and habit of the plant, and any other pertinent information that may not be obtainable from the resultant specimen.

    After drying, the plant is mounted on acid-free paper with a label providing the name and classification of the plant as well as all collection data. After mounting, herbarium specimens are stored in special cabinets and are filed in order by taxonomic group and then by geographic origin.

    Plant Collection and Preservation

    Preserved plant specimens provide us with important information about plant diversity and distribution, in a relatively permanent, and verifiable form that serves as evidence of a plant’s existence in time and space. If these specimens are properly preserved and maintained, they can last for well over 200 years. In a time where we are experiencing rapid habitat loss, herbaria provide important repositories for these sorts of data, and ensure their availability for future research.

    Plant collections are made by botanists, scientists of other disciplines, and citizen scientists in order to document their research and interest. Whenever a plant plays a role in a research study (regardless of the discipline) it is good scientific practice to document this evidence in the form of a plant specimen voucher that will be deposited in a herbarium. Beyond providing support for the research study, this ensures botanists have the opportunity to verify the identification of the plant.

    It is particularly important that plant collections be made in such a manner as to increase their longevity as preserved herbarium specimens, as well as optimize their usefulness for future research.

    Download the complete document, Plant Collection and Preservation, produced by BRIT staff.


    Plant collections ought to be made in such a manner as to increase their longevity as preserved herbarium specimens, as well as optimize their usefulness for future research.

    Data Record and Photography

    A specimen is scientifically useful if it is accompanied by collection notes regarding where, when and under what ciscumstances a plant was collected.

    Pressing and Drying

    To facilitate specimen storage and use, collected plants must be pressed to a 2-dimensional status and dried to remove any moisture that would encourage fungal growth.


    Plant identification requires you have as much of the plant as possible, and in some occassions this cannot be accomplished if you are dealing with a sterile specimen.


    There is an art to the mounting of plant specimens to their archival quality cardstock backing. BRIT's volunteers and staff participate in this activity daily.

    Preservation and Storage

    Herbarium specimens will last hundreds of years if properly cared for. We are committed to providing a secure and easily accessible collection for scientific research.