AskDefine | Define herbarium

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a collection of dried plants or parts of plants
  2. a building or institution where such a collection is kept


Extensive Definition

Most herbaria utilize a standard system of organizing their specimens into herbarium cases. Specimen sheets are stacked in groups by the species to which they belong and placed into a large lightweight folder that is labelled on the bottom edge. Groups of species folders are then placed together into larger, heavier folders by genus. The genus folders are then sorted by taxonomic family according to the standard system selected for use by the herbarium and placed into pigeonholes in herbarium cabinets.
Locating a specimen filed in the herbarium requires knowing the nomenclature and classification used by the herbarium. It also requires familiarity with possible name changes that have occurred since the specimen was collected, since the specimen may be filed under an older name.
Modern herbaria often maintain electronic databases accessible via the Internet.


Herbaria are essential for the study of plant taxonomy, the study of geographic distributions, and the stabilizing of nomenclature. Thus it is desirable to include in a specimen as much of the plant as possible (e.g., flowers, stems, leaves, seed, and fruit). Linnaeus' herbarium now belongs to the Linnean Society in England.
Specimens housed in herbaria may be used to catalogue or identify the flora of an area. A large collection from a single area is used in writing a field guide or manual to aid in the identification of plants that grow there. With more specimens available, the author of the guide will better understand the variability of form in the plants and the natural distribution over which the plants grow.
Herbaria also preserve an historical record of change in vegetation over time. In some cases, plants become extinct in one area, or may become extinct altogether. In such cases, specimens preserved in an herbarium can represent the only record of the plant's original distribution. Environmental scientists make use of such data to track changes in climate and human impact.
Many kinds of scientists use herbaria to preserve voucher specimens; representative samples of plants used in a particular study to demonstrate precisely the source of their data.

Largest herbaria

Many universities, museums, and botanical gardens maintain herbaria. Herbaria have also proven very useful as sources of plant DNA for use in taxonomy and molecular systematics. The largest herbaria in the world, in approximate order of decreasing size, are:

External links

herbarium in Bulgarian: Хербарий
herbarium in Czech: Herbář
herbarium in German: Herbarium
herbarium in Spanish: Herbario
herbarium in French: Herbier
herbarium in Indonesian: Herbarium
herbarium in Hebrew: עשבייה
herbarium in Latvian: Herbārijs
herbarium in Lithuanian: Herbariumas
herbarium in Malay (macrolanguage): Herbarium
herbarium in Dutch: Herbarium
herbarium in Japanese: ハーバリウム
herbarium in Polish: Zielnik
herbarium in Portuguese: Herbário
herbarium in Russian: Гербарий
herbarium in Slovak: Herbár
herbarium in Slovenian: Herbarij
herbarium in Serbian: Хербаријум
herbarium in Finnish: Kasvio
herbarium in Swedish: Herbarium
herbarium in Turkish: Herbaryum
herbarium in Ukrainian: Гербарій

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Japanese garden, alpine garden, arboretum, bed, bog garden, border, botanical garden, dry garden, flower bed, flower garden, garden, garden spot, grape ranch, grapery, hortus siccus, jardin, kitchen garden, market garden, ornamental garden, paradise, pinetum, rock garden, roof garden, shrubbery, sunken garden, tea garden, truck garden, vegetable garden, victory garden, vinery, vineyard
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