How to arrange a new Herbarium?

Mary Barkworth Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU
Wed Jan 30 08:25:24 CST 2002

Three points:
Herbaria are not the only teaching tool, granted, but they are one. And,
even if some parts of the RD classification have changed, my bet is that
substantial parts are still viable. We should not try to convey to
students that any system is perfect. I am delighted for the bits that
remain constant.  

I did not mention the business of adjusting a herbarium to reflect
taxonomic change largely because the original question concerned a new
herbarium, but I wish that this herbarium did not have the mimosoids so
far from the faboids.  It is alphabetical.  

Floras will change, very slowly. Again, the interesting part will be
which families do remain together and more or less constant.
Unfortunately, in this part of the world floras are alphabetical. I
agree that it is much easier to look up information in an alphabetical
arrangement - but I do know how to use an index and, over the long run,
I learned far more using the E&P organized Pacific NW flora than people
using the alphabetical arrangements in Utah floras (With Leguminosae in
one and Fabaceae in the other incidentally).


-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas Lammers [mailto:lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU]
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2002 6:24 AM
Subject: Re: How to arrange a new Herbarium?

At 04:45 PM 1/30/02 +1100, you wrote:

>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).

Now, to me, this is a cogent example *against* systematic order.  You
telling me that your herbarium is arranged according to a sequence that
used in virtually *no* manuals, floras, monographs, etc.  A system that,
because of a terrible auto accident, will never be brought to fruition
expounded fully, that, in a practical sense, "has no future."  What,
does it teach students who become familiar with it?

I appreciate the many points that have been made about the value of a
phylogenetic sequence for herbaria.  (But I would note that all can be
achieved in other ways -- the herbarium is not our sole teaching
tool.)  All are true, and are of value.  But that value is seriously
compromised, and outweighed by practical considerations, by the labile
nature of our classifications.  I'm know for a fact that the Dahlgren
system looked pretty good in 1982, as the APG looks pretty good right
now.   But subsequent developments have made Dahlgren a poor choice from
today's perspective.  Future events will undoubtedly render APG
untenable.  Until our classifications achieve a higher level of
stability (
a goal I do believe is achievable in the near future), pragmatism will
to outweigh the ideal.

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:       lammers at
phone:      920-424-1002
fax:           920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.

"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                 -- Anonymous

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