herbarium (re)arrangement

P. F. Stevens peter.stevens at MOBOT.ORG
Thu Apr 15 09:40:31 CDT 1999

There was a rearrangement of part of the Harvard University Herbaria a
couple of years ago that took into account some of the major changes since
proposed by the APG paper.  The herbarium had previously been arranged in a
quasi-Englerian sequence.  The spur for doing this was

1.  It was difficult to teach advanced flowering plant families (i.e., all
families), because it took so long to assemble material.

2.  The middle part of the herbarium had to be shifted.

The main goal was to get families in the one order together, so far as we
could.  The sequence of orders was less important, so Fagales stayed near
the monocots.

So we were able to get Salicaceae and Flacourtiaceae close to each other;
put Rhizophoraceae next to Erythroxylaceae; Theaceae and Lecythidaceae near
Ericaceae; Plumbaginaceae near Cactaceae, etc.  Also, by moving
Cucurbitaceae (previously near Asteraceae) to near Begoniaceae, we were
able to fill in that particular hole with families that had previously been
included in Saxifragaceae (e.g.).  The Cucurbitaceae did not have to be
moved, but we reckoned that it was a minor amount of work to move them,
considering the improvements gained.

What we did **not** try to do was to combine adjacent families like
"Apocynaceae"/Asclepiadaceae, disentangle "Verbenaceae" and Lamiaceae, etc.
Also, because of the timing (and partly because I forgot, things were a
little rushed), some changes that would now seem reasonable were not done.

Note, however, that one of the main aims of herbaria (and their associated
libraries) is to be able to retrieve specimens (books) easily, and teaching
families is only one of the activities that is associated with a herbarium.
It is *of course* not necessary for a herbarium to have plants arranged
phylogenetically - and even with the APG system, there are very, very many
ways of arranging families in a linear sequence.  However, it may be that
some people will find that if they reorganise their herbaria somewhat, it
will make teaching (and learning) much easier.

Peter S.

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