Question on "fumigating" herbarium specimens

Rod Seppelt rod_sep at ANTDIV.GOV.AU
Wed May 12 06:53:30 CDT 1999

Regarding Kent Holsinger's query about alternatives to freezing tropical
plants because of the probability of killing the seeds and making them
non-viable for germination studies (and the spin-offs from that).

Dare I ask what is the viability after a period of time (months, years?) of
tropical seeds (or other seeds for that matter) when they are preserved on
herbarium sheets.
Kept in a seed bank, the situation may be different, but I wonder if your
seeds on these sheets remain viable for that long anyway.
Perhaps herbarium sheets are not the way to go to obtain material for
germination.  A lot of modern taxonomy can surely be accomplished without
the need for a viable seed.
Alternatively, perhaps seeds should be collected for correct storage in a
seed bank at the time of collecting the specimens (assuming that mature
seed is available at the time of collection).
This may not solve your immediate problem, but to me your choice is either
freeze the material and destroy the seed viability, or use some form of
potentially harmful (or expensive) chemical

Rod Seppelt

Dr. Rodney D. Seppelt
Principal Research Scientist
Australian Antarctic Division
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Kingston 7050, Tasmania, Australia

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