Author: Ethan Perry
On Sunday Feb 26 we met at the Bagley Nature Center classroom to mount pressed plant specimens onto acid-free archival herbarium sheets. Dr. Amanda Grusz, a biology professor at UMD and curator of the Olga Lakela Herbarium, gave us an introduction to the importance of plant specimens for science. One use for them is in studies of the evolution of plants and how different species are related. New techniques can extract DNA for genetic analysis, even from old specimens.
Paul Hlina, who previously presented to us about his botanical study of the Brule River State Forest, spoke about searching for seeds of a rare, endemic species of wild pea among old specimens in the Mesa Verde National Park herbarium. He germinated the seeds in a greenhouse to grow plants for a restoration project.
Under Dr. Grusz’s guidance, we worked through a stack of pressed plants that we collected at an event back in August at Sax-Zim Bog. We carefully glued them to herbarium sheets, making sure both the tops and undersides of leaves were visible. In the corner we attached a label with information about the plant, including the species name, the date and location it was collected, the name of the collector, and a unique collection number.
Properly preserved plants can retain their color for hundreds of years. The specimens we mounted will join the tens of thousands in UMD herbarium cabinets, available for scientific study long into the future.