How to arrange a new Herbarium?

Karen Wilson Karen.Wilson at RBGSYD.NSW.GOV.AU
Wed Jan 30 16:45:17 CST 2002

I also strongly support the 'systematic' order of herbaria. 
Alphabetical order is great for those mechanically filing specimens and for finding specimens IF you already know the name of the taxon you want. 
However, as Mary B. says, no-one learns anything about relationships (apart from the order of the alphabet) in an alphabetical system, where they have some hope of learning a little more from a systematic order. The latter is also helpful if you have an unidentified plant that can't be tracked down satisfactorily via keys but you have some general idea of where it fits in the scheme of things: systematic order then means you have some hope of tracking it down by dipping into the herbarium collections. 

Equally there is no 'right' classification to follow, as Jim points out. But, as Doug says, having some sort of systematic order obviates moves of specimens if the taxon name changes and it then falls in a different part of the alphabet. 
Here at NSW, we use an order that is 20 years old: a slightly modified version of Rolf Dahlgren's classification (prior to that we had used Engler and Prantl). We were lucky that we moved into a new building in 1982, so that was an ideal opportunity to change the order. Over the years, we have made some modifications (but only a few - a testament to the basic soundness of what RD proposed without the benefit of molecular data). There are more changes to come with the APG's work, especially in the monocots, where molecular data have been particularly enlightening. We're not rushing into it because, pragmatically, any herbarium order has to change slowly because of the practical difficulties of changing the physical order of specimens - one doesn't move thousands of specimens/folders/boxes without a good reason. 
We could send an electronic copy of the order we use, Kristina, if that would be helpful to you in making a decision. 
Karen W.

Karen L. Wilson
Special Botanist
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
Mrs Macquaries Road

Phone: +61-2-9231 8137
Fax: +61-2-9251 7231
Email: karen.wilson at

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