Monday, December 19, 2011

Rocky Mountain Herbarium News

Ron Hartman
(Editor’s note: Ron Hartman was first Vice-President of Wyoming Native Plant Society and is Curator of the Rocky Mountain Herbarium.)

            Whether you visit Rocky Mountain Herbarium on-line or on foot, you will notice major changes[1]. We are in a constant expansion mode that has recently translated to a new floor plan and magnitudes more scanned specimens for viewing online.  The current holdings of Rocky Mountain Herbarium (RM) combined with the National Herbarium of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) contain 871,710 accessions; the William G. Solheim Mycological Herbarium (RMS) contains 48,000 for a total of 919,710 specimens, up from 302,000 in 1977. Also, University of Wyoming (UW) - College of Agriculture houses the A.A. Beetle Grass Herbarium (WYAC; 60,000 accessions). The combined holdings of these herbaria rank UW at 15th of more than 750 herbaria in the nation, 5th for a state institution. A backlog of over 230,000 collections (identified, data based, with labels) is available for study by researchers. It may appear that we have been gaining on this backlog as during the past 10 years, we have processed over 191,300 specimens. Surprisingly, we have obtained roughly an equal number of collections from our aggressive regional inventories. If we were current on the backlog, the collections would consist of more than 1.42 million plant and fungal specimens ranking UW 10th in the nation, 3rd for a state institution. These combined UW accessions represent the largest holding of vascular plants and fungi, by a factor of 3, between the Mississippi and West Coast.

Due to the rapid expansion of the collections, space in existing cabinets has been inadequate. For example, more than 120,000 mounted specimens are just sitting in hopper boxes. Consequently, three rooms on the third floor of the Aven Nelson Building adjoining the RM were renovated this past summer, thanks to Greg Brown, Botany Department Head.  This fall, 176 cabinets (sunflower yellow) were secured from Steel Fixture, Topeka, Kansas.  These, with the inclusion of 32 cabinets that have had other uses, have lead to space for about 416,000 new specimens, or a 40 percent increase in capacity. The specimens as a whole can now be evenly dispersed throughout the old and new cabinets and the mounted specimens in hopper boxes can be inserted. 

          On-line, the scanned images of specimen accessions have mushroomed, including scanned images of the Grand Teton National Park Herbarium (7,500) and of the recently completed thesis on the flora of Grand Teton National Park and Pinyon Peak Highlands (8,200; Kesonie 2009, Kesonie and Hartman 2011).  This makes the Teton County flora visually available to everyone with internet access, even if it is not a simple matter for you to travel to RM or the Park herbarium. 

          You are invited to visit RM any time - on-line and on foot as part of the 2012 WNPS annual meeting in Laramie next June.

Literature Cited
Kesonie, D. 2009. A floristic inventory of Grand Teton National Park and the Pinyon Peak Highlands, Wyoming. M.S. Botany, University of Wyoming.
Kesonie, D.T. and R.L. Hartman. 2011. A floristic inventory of Grand Teton National Park, Pinyon Peak Highlands, and Vicinity, Wyoming, U.S.A. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 5(1): 357-388.

[1] See also: 2009. Rocky Mountain Herbarium at Your Fingertips, Castilleja 28(3): 3-4; and
Schmidt, L. 2010. Gold Standards of the Plant Kingdom Go Online. Castilleja 29(3): 7.

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