Botanical spirit collection

Stephan Helfer S.Helfer at RBGE.ORG.UK
Thu Aug 24 11:12:41 CDT 1995

Dear Taxacomers

We have been investigating recently whether we should revert to our
original formula of preserving spirit containing formalin ('Kew
mixture'). With COSHH (Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations) etc. we had
opted for the formalin-free concoction containing 58% meths, 5%
glycerol  and 37% dest. water (all by volume). However, there
have been rumours that this mixture leads to the specimens getting
too brittle and deteriorating in the liquid (we have not experienced any
deterioration yet). Following this rumour I e-mailed all available
herbaria and enquired about their preservation techniques. About 20
people replied. None used formalin for plant material (one museum in
New Zealand used it for marine arthropods or some such).

Could those of you dealing with spirit preserved botanical material
please tell me what your experience is with respect to preserving
chemicals. I hesitate to recommend to our herbarium committee that
formalin can't be avoided, as this would entail extremely costly
alterations to the set up, and make examination of specimens very
cumbersome. It appears that Kew are still using formalin mixtures
whereas Copenhagen would not consider the introduction of formalin at

Apologies to those who have seen this message before.

Yours sincerely

Dr Stephan Helfer, SSO

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Inverleith Row, EDINBURGH EH3 5LR,
Scotland UK

email s.helfer at
phone: +44 (0)131 552 7171 ext 280
    or +44 (0)131 459 0446-280 (direct digital VoiceMail line)
fax:   +44 (0)131 552 0382

Yours sincerely

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