The RBGE Herbarium is frequently gifted plant specimens from individual collectors. In recent years we have received material from
- T. Powell (seaweeds)
- J.F. Dobremez (flora of Nepal)
- C. Townsend (mosses)
- C.R. Fraser-Jenkins (ferns)
Often the culmination of a lifetime’s collecting and botanical expertise, these gifts are of enormous importance to the Herbarium.
However, some specimens require a considerable amount of preparatory work before they can be incorporated into the collection. Following an initial condition assessment, tasks may include:
- Cataloguing ancillary material eg photos, drawings, collecting books
- Sending duplicate specimens to other Herbaria
- Producing or photocopying labels
- Databasing & imaging
- Mounting or remounting
- Laying away [filing specimens in herbarium cabinets]
This preparation is vital if the specimens are to be maintained in the best possible condition and made fully accessible to future researchers. It may take weeks, months or years.
Volunteers play a vital and much appreciated role in assisting Herbarium staff with this work. Some are featured here, but to all we would like to say a huge Thank You!
The gifted herbaria and the volunteers who work on them:
Collector: Harry T. Powell (1925-2016)
Background: Henry Powell (known as Harry) had a lifelong career with the Scottish Marine Biological Association (SMBA), later the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). He carried out seaweed surveys all around the Scottish coast, publishing several significant papers, and conducted important studies on Fucus species (wracks). He was an active member of his workplace union branch and a chairman of Connel Community Council.
Collection: Over 500 hundred dried pressed seaweed specimens, and papers, photographs, films and collecting equipment. He also rescued a variety of items when the SMBA relocated from Millport to Oban in 1967. These included 19th century pressed specimens and nature prints.
Volunteer: Clare Scanlan
Background: Recently retired from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) – Senior Marine Specialist (marine plants). Long-term interest in seaweeds.
Project: Sorting and cataloguing the collection bequeathed by the late Harry T. Powell.
Likes: Working with seaweeds, and on a collection that is both interesting and useful.
Collector: Jean Francois Dobremez (1941-2009)
Background: A professor at the University of Grenoble, Dobremez was the ecologist who mapped Nepal. His vegetation types are still used in official documents in Nepal.
Collection: Over 9000 herbarium sheets, mainly specimens collected by Dobremez and his colleagues in the 1960s and 70s, but supplemented by other botanists collecting in Nepal around the same time. They are a valuable resource for RBGEs Flora of Nepal research.
Volunteer: Jean Keeling
Background: Consultant pathologist, former allotment holder, always into walking and cooking.
Project: Preparing pressed specimens from the Dobremez collection for remounting by herbarium technicians.
Likes: Stepping into the Herbarium, a haven of tranquillity. Meeting people from a variety of backgrounds, both staff and other volunteers is a bonus.
Dislikes: Visitors who don’t replace the microscope covers and haven’t discovered how to turn off their mobiles!
Collector: Clifford Charles Townsend (b.1926)
Background: Townsend was a member of staff at Kew Botanical Gardens, where his main area of research was the production of the Flora of Iraq. Collecting bryophytes [mosses] was just a very prolific hobby.
Collection: He gifted around 11 000 specimens to RBGE in 2001 and a further 14 000 in 2012! The gift of 2012 had to be collected at very short notice, as he gave an ultimatum that the Natural History Museum, London, could have them unless we collected them within a week or so!
Volunteer: Margaret Johnson
Background: Worked in drawing offices producing geographical/architectural plans, and records of utilities. Has always been interested in plants, gardens and plant collectors, and loves travelling.
Project: Preparing C. C. Townsend specimens for mounting (mosses are stored in paper packets glued on to herbarium sheets). Checking for duplicates to send to other Herbaria.
Likes: The staff, Friends and volunteers are very friendly which makes an enjoyable atmosphere in which to be able to help out in the Garden.
Collector: Christopher R. Fraser-Jenkins (b.1948)
Background: He began collecting in April 1957 at the age of 9, and went on to make thousands of wild fern collections from Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Southern Asia, North (incl. USA, Hawaii and Mexico) and Central America, Jamaica, Réunion and Africa.
Collection: His collection came to us from the Welsh National Herbarium in 2011, and includes over 32 300 accessions as well as correspondence, field books and hard drives of photographs. Further collections are held at the Natural History Museum, London.
Volunteer: Sheila Rennie
Background: Administrative/managerial position with Scottish Certification Authority (SQA). Interests include cinema, books, tennis, golf, skiing and travel.
Project: Preparing archival quality labels for specimen collections. Previously worked on transcribing information from C. R. Fraser-Jenkins collection books into the RBGE Herbarium database.
Likes: The stress-free working environment and interacting with other volunteers – tea breaks and lunchtimes are pleasant social occasions.
Volunteer: Bridget Laue
Background: An active member of the British Pteridological Society (BPS), I have a very strong fondness for ferns. So when the RBGE needed someone to help with ferns in the herbarium, it seemed an ideal project to pursue in my retirement.
Project: Processing the unmounted specimens, preparing them for mounting, and then barcoding and laying away the mounted specimens.
Likes: The fern specimens are lovely and I have learned so much from dealing with them. But besides this, I have really enjoyed getting to know other members of the herbarium team, as well as visiting researchers. Everyone has their own peculiar area of interest and expertise. I also like the flexibility; I can work away on my own at the times that work well for me. My supervisor, Sally King, is great about giving me clear instructions and having material ready for me.
Dislikes: Okay, really the only downside of working in the herbarium is finding myself working indoors on the occasional dry, sunny, Scottish day.