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CSU Herbarium registered with prestigious New York Botanical Garden

University Relations

HerbariumDespite having 1,000 samples thus far instead of the usual 5,000, the Charleston Southern University Herbarium has been accepted for registry with the New York Botanical Garden – one of the world’s most prestigious.

Dr. Melinda Walker, chair of the biology department, said the CSU Herbarium was accepted at just 1,000 samples because of the quality of samples, speed with which the samples were selected and the historical significance of the herbarium. "Consider how many, many institutions there are in the world that have a botany component. Only 3,400 herbariums exist worldwide – we are one of them,” said Walker.

The CSU Herbarium has a goal of collecting and documenting all plant species in this specific place in South Carolina. “CSU is the site of a historical plantation, and we are surrounded by plantations from the founding of our country. Not many universities have such a richly historical environment from which to benefit,” said Walker. “Keeping up with, and documenting, plant specimens over time means that in the future, studies can be made to see if there are changes in the local flora, negatively or positively. Comparisons can be made to similar areas in other places of the world and questions asked as to why this area is or is not like that area.

“There are numerous invasive, introduced species on campus and in the Charleston area, so this herbarium can help determine if new ones are coming in, if there are plants here now that disappear in the future or are in the process of disappearing from the local environment, etc. This herbarium will provide concrete data for these and other studies,” said Walker.

Kevin Jones, biology instructor, is the curator of the CSU Herbarium. Jones uses the herbarium extensively in the Plant Taxonomy class. “With Kevin’s research students it has formed the basis of all the projects done since the summer of 2012. Actually, if it were not for the work of students involved, the herbarium would not exist,” said Walker.

To date, 12 students have been involved in this work, including Adrianna Fiscella’s research project. Fiscella coauthored a paper on the Hobcaw Barony research project.

Walker said, “When articles are written for publication, the voucher specimens collected for that study are maintained in a recognized herbarium for reference in the future. Now any studies we do of that nature, such as the study Kevin Jones did last summer at Hobcaw Barony, can be maintained here on campus.” If CSU did not have the Herbarium, those specimens would have to be deposited in another university’s herbarium.

The CSU Herbarium is located in Jones’s office in the Science Building, which is specifically designed to hold the herbarium in a safe location that also provides enough room for those interested to be able to view the specimens.

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On its website, the New York Botanical Garden’s International Plant Science Center explains index herbariorums:

“For the past three centuries, scientists have documented the earth’s plant and fungal diversity through dried reference specimens maintained in collections known as herbaria. There are approximately 3,400 herbaria in the world today, with approximately 10,000 associated curators and biodiversity specialists. Collectively the world’s herbaria contain an estimated 350,000,000 specimens that document the earth’s vegetation for the past 400 years. Index Herbariorum is a guide to this crucial resource for biodiversity science and conservation.” 

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