Flatter than a Pancake: Why Scanning Herbarium Sheets Shouldn't Make Them Disappear

Maura C. Flannery

Abstract


Herbaria are collections of preserved plant specimens, primarily composed of paper sheets with pressed plants or plant parts attached to them. The most valuable kind of sheet is the holotype specimen. This is the specific plant that was used in describing the species by the person who first identified it. Botanists must reference the holotype when reclassifying or renaming a species. In the past, this meant either borrowing the sheet or visiting the herbarium in which it was housed. With digitization of these sheets, there is much greater and easier access to this information. However, digital images are not substitutes for the sheets themselves. This article will discuss why this is the case, why scanning herbarium sheets is still worthwhile effort, and why the sheets themselves are still necessary to plant research.

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