Plant Systematics and Biodiversity

Digitizing and Distributing Specimen-based Plant Biodiversity Data

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Herbaria—museums of dried plant, lichen, and fungal specimens—are time capsules of biodiversity. They are a persistent, tangible record of what has grown in an area. These samples are protected in museum cabinets for hundreds of years, far outlasting individual plant lifespans.

The Arboretum’s herbarium contains more than 182,000 vascular plant specimens from around the world, and its reach goes far beyond the walls of our herbarium cabinets. Online specimen data allow researchers to gather data on climatic tolerances of plants worldwide. They allow educators to bring specimen-based science into the classroom. They also serve as a resource to conservation professionals and artists who need to understand how to recognize different plant species. 

The Arboretum’s herbarium is involved in a long-term effort to digitize and disseminate biodiversity data and images and to provide these to international data aggregators, accessible to scientists and landscape restorationists around the world. This work is ongoing and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Science Foundation (NSF), and internal funds. 

For more information: 

Funding Sources

Chicago Wilderness

Institute of Museum and Library Services

National Science Foundation

Newman Family Fund

The Morton Arboretum


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