At A.C. Moore Herbarium: Materiality of Specimens

Celtis laevigata var. laevigata collected by Henry Ravenel along the Santee Canal in April. Henry William Ravenel Collection at A.C. Moore Herbarium, University of South Carolina, Columbia

During the pandemic, I became interested in digital medieval manuscripts after reading a blog post by a researcher studying the digitization of manuscripts at Cambridge University and being unable to access the manuscripts themselves (Haaren, 2020).  I began comparing this digitization process to that of herbarium specimens.  “Materiality” is a term much used in the manuscript world for the look and feel of parchment or paper and the way documents are damaged, annotated, amended over time.  It struck me that such issues also pertain to herbarium specimens, but it’s not something that’s often a matter of focus.  Botanists are interested in the information on sheets:  what the plant itself can tell them and what else they can learn from the label, determination slips, and other notations. 

What I want to argue here is that materiality can have at least a subliminal effect on how specimens are viewed and handled.  I want to use as a study case a number of specimens from the herbarium I’ve been highlighting in this series of posts (1,2,3), that of the A.C. Moore Herbarium (USCH) at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.  As I mentioned earlier, it holds the collection of the 19th-century botanist and planter Henry William Ravenel (1817-1887).  Ravenel was born into a family of planters in South Carolina’s low country relatively near the coast.  In the 1840s, he moved to the southwest part of the state, to the town of Aiken, and bought a plantation there.  Of course, the American Civil War is the elephant in this room.  Before then, he was successful in large part because he owned 80 slaves who worked his land, giving him time to devote to plants and fungi.  By 1860, he had published five volumes of fungal exsiccati and had a wide correspondence with the likes of Asa Gray, George Engelmann, and Edward Tuckerman.

Convinced of the confederate cause, Ravenel sunk all his money into war bonds and was thus left in dire financial straits after the war, with no slaves to farm his land and no one willing to buy it at anywhere near its previous value.  He turned to botany, no longer as just a beloved avocation but as a source of income.  His journals and letters, which have all been transcribed and are available online and cross-referenced with his specimens, record his efforts.  After the war, he was able to resume correspondence with his former botanical colleagues.  He wrote to them asking for advice:  would there be an interest in southern specimens (not really in the post-war era), was there a market for the volumes of his exsiccati (Tuckerman was able to sell some of them and also bought some of his books), what about starting a nursery (nurseryman Thomas Meehan in Philadelphia sent him stock and gave him $50 in start-up money that didn’t need to be repaid). 

Ravenel did cobble together a livelihood and a botanical support group.  He was sent by the federal government to collect plants in Texas in 1869, prepared large cuttings of southern trees for Charles Sprague Sargent in Massachusetts, and traded specimens with the likes of Alvan Chapman in Florida, Stephen Olney in Rhode Island Delaware, and Moses Curtis in the Appalachian regions of the Carolinas (Haygood, 1987).  I can’t go into any more of his background, but you can learn about him on the Plants and Planter website.  Now I want to get to the materiality of Ravenel’s specimens by looking at a couple of them.  As was common in the 19th century, most were mounted on thin paper, now discolored.  After Ravenel’s death, a cousin bought the flowering plant collection from his widow and contributed it to Converse College, in Spartanburg, SC (now Converse University).  The college transferred the collection to USCH in 2004, when its conservation was begun.

There are a variety of sheets in any one folder.  In some cases, the original sheets are themselves mounted on heavier sheets (see image in earlier post); in many cases the original paper is cut around the plant, creating a collage that includes the original label and later determinations, some made in the 1930s when the collection was obviously given attention.  The grasses, for example, were sent for annotation to Mary Agnes Chase at the US Department of Agriculture.  There are also specimens that were apparently easier to remove from damaged mounts and pasted to new sheets.  The original labels are also included, and their darkened paper stands out against the white background (see above).

These remounted specimens, which make up most of the Ravenel collection, are what got me thinking about the materiality of the Ravenel collection.  They look so different from the few older sheets that are extant.  All the plants are from the same period, yet the ones on new sheets look so much fresher.  I think there is also a tendency to handle them with less reverence because the paper is not fragile, there is little reminder of their age.  This got me thinking about the folders in the main collections.  Most of the specimens are from the 20th century, with a good number from the 21st.  However, the specimens from the 1930s and 1940s are often on thin and yellowed paper.  Going through a folder, I think there is a subconscious assessment made in handling each sheet:  delicate, old and fragile; recent, tough and vibrant; or somewhere in between.  These are obviously aesthetic assessments, but they are also practical ones in terms of how the sheets are handled.  They may not require the care in handling a medieval manuscript does—or maybe they do.  Plant material is more fragile than the paper on which it is mounted and paper is more fragile than parchment.  Materiality does matter.

Note: I am very grateful to John Nelson and Herrick Brown for their very helpful commentaries and corrections on this series of posts.

References

Haaren, S. van. (2020, May 25). Physical distancing from manuscripts and the presence of the digital facsimile. Cambridge Medieval Graduate Students. https://camedievalists.wordpress.com/2020/05/25/physical-distancing-from-manuscripts-and-the-presence-of-the-digital-facsimile/

Haygood, T. M. (1987). Henry William Ravenel, 1814-1887: South Carolina Scientist in the Civil War Era. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

At A.C. Moore Herbarium: Ecology

Diphasiastrum digitatum collected by Ronald Chicone, Jr. at Saluda Shoals Park, SC on Novemeber 5, 2000. A.C. Moore Herbarium, University of South Carolina, Columbia

The human brain has a problem with complexity; it can easily be overloaded, which is why simplification and classification are so important in human learning.  This helps to explain why a herbarium sheet usually displays a specimen, or maybe specimens, of a single species.  The plant is spread out so as many observable characteristics as possible are clearly displayed, and since only one species is involved, it makes the sheet easy to put into a single category, a particular species folder.  The same convention of solitude is found in botanical illustration even from the few early illustrations extant on papyrus (Griebeler, 2022).  However, to state the obvious, plants don’t grow this way.  A reminder of this is apparent on an unusual specimen from the A.C. Moore Herbarium (USCH) at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, the institution that is the subject of this series of posts.

The sheet in question is labeled and filed as Diphasiastrum digitatum (USCH0073424) formerly Lycopodium digitatum, a fern ally (see above).  What makes it so eye-catching is that distributed over the sheet are several leaves: one each of maple, oak, and elm.  These are listed on the label as among the species present in this hardwood forest habitat.  Such references are common on labels, but including specimens of the associated species is not.  The leaves are unlabeled, nor are leaves of all the trees mentioned on the label included.  Still, it’s a sheet that catches the eye, and also serves as a reminder that no plant is ever really alone on a sheet.

This Diphasiastrum was collected in 2000 by Ron Chicone, Jr.  A search of the USCH database turned many other specimens collected by him, though none as species-diverse as the Diphasiatrum.  A search of SERNEC, the database for the SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections, revealed many more of his specimens.  LinkedIn provided the information that Ronald Chicone, Jr. graduated from Coastal Carolina University and since then has held several positions, including one as herbarium staff at the University of South Florida.  He is now a land management specialist for the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program in Florida.  So Chicone has spent his career looking at plants in ecological contexts, just as this specimen suggests. 

This fits well into Mason Heberling’s (2022) argument that plant collections have been underused by ecologists for many kinds of studies, including of seasonal and geographical variations in plant traits.  Now botanists are also looking at the roots of herbarium specimens to identify a species’ fungal partners and have successfully extracted DNA from many of them (Heberling & Burke, 2019).  Also, the soil on roots can harbor algae, yet another organism in a vascular plant’s ecosystem—and a reason to leave a little soil on a specimen’s roots (Parker, Schanen & Renner, 1976), though this is considered by some to be haphazard specimen preparation.

Also being investigated is insect damage to specimens’ leaves using a grid system to calculate the extent of eaten areas (Meineke et al., 2019), and it’s not uncommon to find dead insects on a specimen.  Years ago, D.R. Whitehead (1976) wrote an article entitled, “Collecting Beetles in Exotic Places: The Herbarium,” in which he argued that a plant collection was a good place to look for new beetle species.  There is also research on new species of tiny snails first found on plant specimens (Miquel & Bungartz, 2017).  At USCH, researchers have recently begun microscopic examination of invertebrates lurking on algae specimens.  So herbaria can be sources of many kinds of biodiversity beyond the plant world and can contribute to ecological studies on multispecies interactions, including those involving plant pathogens.  

Despite this, I don’t see Chicone’s approach as becoming common, though it does suggest the surprises that can be found in any herbarium.  He was just out of college when he made this collection, so he was relatively new to the world of botany and perhaps therefore less concerned with its traditions and constraints.  Yet, he was hardly a neophyte because the collection number for this specimen is 236.  He probably didn’t mount it, but he must have tucked those leaves into the newspaper in which he pressed the plant.  This means that someone at USCH thought enough of the inclusion to mount the leaves, rather than tossing them out as irrelevant.  So the mounter was also party to this innovation/anomaly.

I am hardly recommending that adding in associated species become standard herbarium practice, though it might be nice if specimens were crossed-reference with those collected at the same time and place.  What I do think is important about this sheet is its role as a reminder that there are many unspoken do’s and don’ts that botanists absorb while working in an herbarium, and it is good to be aware of these.  They are constraints that make botany more organized, and also perhaps more canalized. 

Note: I am very grateful to John Nelson and Herrick Brown for their very helpful commentaries and corrections on this series of posts.

References

Griebeler, A. (2022). Production and design of early illustrated herbals. Word & Image, 38(2), 104–122. https://doi.org/10.1080/02666286.2021.1951518

Heberling, J. M. (2022). Herbaria as big data sources of plant traits. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 183(2), 87–118. https://doi.org/10.1086/717623

Heberling, J. M., & Burke, D. J. (2019). Utilizing herbarium specimens to quantify historical mycorrhizal communities. Applications in Plant Sciences, 7(4), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1002/aps3.1223

Meineke, E. K., Classen, A. T., Sanders, N. J., & Davies, T. J. (2019). Herbarium specimens reveal increasing herbivory over the past century. Journal of Ecology, 107(1), 105–117. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13057

Miquel, S. E., & Bungartz, F. (2017). Snails found among herbarium specimens of Galapagos lichens and bryophytes, with the description of Scolodonta rinae (Gastropoda: Scolodontidae), a new species of carnivorous micro-mollusk. International Journal of Malacology, 173–186. https://doi.org/10.1127/arch.moll/146/173-186

Whitehead, D. R. (1976). Collecting beetles in exotic places: The herbarium. The Coleopterists Bulletin, 30(3), 249–250.

At A.C. Moore Herbarium: Aesthetics

Limnobium spongia collected by Alvan Chapman in Apalachicola, FL. Henry William Ravenel Collection at A.C. Moore Herbarium, University of South Carolina, Columbia

In this series of posts, I’m focusing on the holdings of the A.C. Moore Herbarium (USCH) at the University of South Carolina.  Here I want to discuss the beauty I come upon among the specimens.  Aesthetically pleasing plants are replete in any herbarium, but since almost all are hidden away most of the time, this beauty goes unappreciated, as does art in the vast warehouses of museums like the Met and the Louvre.  The great thing about volunteering in an herbarium is that I get an opportunity to come upon gorgeous specimens on a regular basis.  Recently, I was hunting for something in the mounting room and saw a Passiflora sheet collected by John Nelson, curator emeritus.  Now Nelson did get help from the plant here; the delicacy of its flower is hard to beat.  Carl Linnaeus also had a lovely example that is now the lectotype for the species Passiflora caerulea

The herbarium holds the specimens of Henry William Ravenel (1814-1887) a nineteenth-century South Carolina botanist.  This collection of slightly more than 6000 specimens was entrusted to the care of the herbarium by Converse College (now University) in Spartanburg, SC.   The college had received the plants from Ravenel’s cousin who had bought them from his widow (Haygood, 1987).  Most of the specimens have been remounted, but in some cases the plants couldn’t be easily removed from the original mount, so the specimen and its paper were attached to a new sheet.  In every case, all labels, notes, and determinations were also remounted.  A specimen I find particularly attractive is a American frogbit Limnobium spongia (HWR-00048010) collected by Alvan Wentworth Chapman in Apalachicola, Florida (see above).  The combination of the form of the leaves and bending of the stems with the texture of the paper makes is so appealing.  The subtlety of the colors of the plant and that of the paper is also attractive. 

In general, the Ravenel specimens are treasures because they not only give evidence of what was growing in the 19th century in South Carolina and other parts of the South, as well as more broadly, since Ravenel exchanged specimens with many botanists.  There are also some notes with interesting information on locale or habitat.  Ravenel’s journals and correspondence have been digitized and transcribed.  They are available on the Plants and Planter website along with all his specimens and even maps, so it is easy to search for information on particular collectors or collection events.  Obviously the University of South Carolina appreciates the collection and has worked with other institutions to maximize its availability to both botanists and historians.

But even for recent collections of species that aren’t that photogenic, an expert mounter can make something wonderful from it.  Take another Nelson specimen, this one of southern bog clubmoss Lycopodiella appressum (USCH0073992, see below).  There are any number of aesthetic theories and definitions of what makes something beautiful.  Among the qualities often mentioned elegance as one, and the Passiflora fits the bill there.  Another is symmetry, and with Lycopodiella the mounter has taken this aesthetic quality and created something eye-catching from rather mundane material.  But there’s more than aesthetics involved in this sheet, there is also a good use of space, to make sure all parts of both plants are displayed.  Some students of beauty think that too much symmetry can be boring, and that an interplay of symmetry and asymmetry is more pleasing as is apparent here.  For this specimen the obvious symmetry is enlivened by the asymmetry of the crossed branches. 

Lycopodiella appressum collected by John Nelson at the headwaters of Sandy Run, SC on June 23, 1989. A.C. Moore Herbarium, University of South Carolina, Columbia

As with any artwork, it takes time to appreciate all this sheet has to offer, and usually botanists tend to push aesthetics aside and focus on the information in a beautifully mounted plant.  This makes perfect sense, specimens are first and foremost scientific objects stored for research and educational purposes.  However, it doesn’t hurt to spend a moment from time to time just to soak in the beauty, because, as I have argued before (see earlier post), aesthetics is an intrinsic part of botanical inquiry.  In the last post, I discussed the difficulties of collecting, but put less emphasis on the thrills, which is rarely mentioned on labels.  John Nelson has described to me the moment when he discovered a new species of hedge-nettle Stachys caroliniana:  it was a holiday weekend, he was at the beach with his family, and he decided to do a little botanizing.  And there it was.  Needless to say none of this made it into the article he wrote with Douglas Rayner (2014) describing the species.  Elation simply is not part of scientific prose, explaining why scientists are considered a rather stuffy lot.  John Nelson would not be described as stuffy.  It is alleged that for many years he dressed as the masked botanical superhero Plantman for various occasions, but he denies any such involvement, adding that since Plantman is real, no one needs dress up like him. 

Nelson will admit to bringing a “Vivat Linnaeus” banner with him when he leads field trips, either for his students or other groups.  He also began the tradition which continues under the present curator, Herrick Brown (also a banner wielder), of saying “Vivat” whenever entering one of the rabbit warren of rooms that make up the herbarium.  Anyone in the room knows to answer “Linnaeus.”  This is more than just a quaint tribute to the father of modern botany, it also has a practical purpose.  The rooms are filled with cabinets, that it’s good to know where a fellow human may be lurking and not come upon them unannounced and scaring both parties.  Such customs makes the A.C. Moore Herbarium a happy, if crowded, space for doing and enjoying botany, as is testified to by the number of volunteers and students who work there, and often return for a visit long after they’ve moved on. 

Note: I am very grateful to John Nelson and Herrick Brown for their very helpful commentaries and corrections on this series of posts.

References

Haygood, T. M. (1987). Henry William Ravenel, 1814-1887: South Carolina Scientist in the Civil War Era. Birmingham: University of Alabama Press.

Nelson, J. B., & Rayner, D. A. (2014). A new hedge-nettle (Stachys: Lamiaceae) from South Carolina, USA. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 8(2), 431–440.

At A.C. Moore Herbarium: Collecting

Botrychium virginianum collected by Ann Darr and Albert Pittman on August 13, 2003. A.C. Moore Herbarium, University of South Carolina, Columbia

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, I volunteer at the A.C. Moore Herbarium (USCH) at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.  I am writing this series of posts during Thanksgiving week in part to let the people at the herbarium know how grateful I am for all I learn from them.  From my years of volunteering here and in New York, I know that developing good volunteer requires a lot of work.  They need training, retraining, reminding, herding, and positive reinforcement by the professionals who have many other things to do.  The herbarium’s curator is Herrick Brown who has years of experience managing and digitizing this collection, and has also worked for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and the Smithsonian.  He took over three years ago when John B. Nelson became curator emeritus.  Like many retired botanists, Nelson continues to work in the herbarium and collect specimens (over 44,000).  Both men are patient and generous in sharing their knowledge, especially about Southern species, and have taught me a great deal about the history of botany.  Plus they make the herbarium a joyous place, along with Amanda Harmon the herbarium manager, Csilla Czako, the data manager, and a band of volunteers both students and master gardeners. 

Nelson was the one who suggested I write a blog post about what doesn’t get recorded on specimen labels to remind people of the amount of work involved in wrangling plants and the difficulties encountered in the field.  This is a very good point.  Rarely are specimen sheets sweat-stained.  It’s easy to forget that a plant collected in a South Carolina swamp in July was harvested by a botanist who was perspiring profusely, persecuted by mosquitos, and in danger of encountering a venomous snake.  There is a plant called coastal doghobble Leucothoe axillaris that Mark Catesby dealt with over 300 years ago in The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands.  It can still grow in thick stands that are difficult to get through, even for a hunting dog.  Added to that is the South Carolina summer heat and humidity; hydration is essential, and water is heavy to carry. 

Botanists’ logs or journals may make note of some problems, but environmental conditions are so much a part of the job that they are often ignored.  Even if the temperature is moderate and the insects in abeyance, collecting is still work:  taking notes including geographic coordinates, making sure the specimens are labeled, hauling them around.  There is also the disappointment if the particular object of a foray doesn’t appear or is past its prime.  I could go on, but this might get depressing.  So I’ll also mention the thrill of finding something unexpected and in full bloom, or sitting under a tree with a cool breeze providing the perfect respite. 

I want to mention a case where the difficulties slipped onto a specimen label for the fern Botrychium virginianum (USCH0075490, see above).   I found the sheet pictured above on the same day that Nelson gave me the idea for this post.  The label is enlarged so you can see clearly the cross-out on the first line:  “The day started in the wrong direction.”  Ann Darr and Albert Pittman both worked for the SCDNR and were conducting a survey of mafic areas, those with igneous rock, in Pickens County in the northwest part of the state where the Piedmont meets the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  I would assume Darr wrote the label since her collection number is recorded, and Brown has pointed out to me another one of her witty labels.1  However, I don’t know if she later regretted being so blunt, or if Pittman or someone else crossed it out.  However, I’m glad it is still legible.  After all, the precise details about the mistake are given in the next line, and it is easy to see how a mistake was made:  mistaking Little Caesar for Caesar.2

No one is perfect, and it is nice to see such candor, tinged with humor, on a label.  It would have seemed a shame not to note an error that made the day a little (or a lot?) more difficult.  It would have been especially annoying at the start:  all fired up for collecting and then having to go back to square one.  Keep in mind, this was not flat land.  As the labels notes, their access to the collection site was “by way of the Foothills Trail: Sassafras Mountain to Chimneytop Gap.”  This fern was collected in August so a trip to the mountains might have been a nice respite from the heat of Columbia where DNR is headquartered.  Still, no one wants to make a mistake, especially when they are not alone.  Yet having collecting partners is a good idea because of some of the challenges I’ve already mentioned.

John Nelson can also write labels that tell more than need be to set the stage.  When he was collecting out West, he mentioned the presence of a  “Gentleman’s Club” near the collecting site.  On another label for a plant found closer to home, a narrowleaf silkgrass plant (Pityopsis graminifolia USCH0051476), he wrote:  “Corollas bright yellow, plants silvery, offering a vaguely cheerful aspect to an otherwise sad landscape, weedy and pathetic . . . “   There is poetry here and a reminder of the aesthetic aspects of collecting, something that will come up in the next post.  It’s also a reminder that there is a lot to learn about people as well as plants while sifting through specimens and reading labels. 

Notes:

1. USCH0017120: “We parked our vehicle on private land to get to Peach Orchard Mountain.  Believe it or not the gentleman’s name is “Tony Orlando.”  Bert was already asking Tony if he knew “Dawn.”  I wanted to tie a yellow ribbon around Bert’s head.”  Brown told me that he had to look up “Tony Orlando” on the web to figure out what was going on here. 

2. Comment from Brown: “One is pizza, the other an Emperor.”

Acknowledgement: I want to thank Herrick Brown and John Nelson for their careful reading of this series of posts and their thoughtful, if sometimes irrelevant, comments.

Discussing the Plant Humanities: Collections

Specimens of Argyroxiphium caliginis with Otto Degener collection number 2557, the same as the one Shih displayed with Wiebke’s name crossed out. In the specimen on the left from KHD, only Degener’s name appears; on the right from US, both names appear.

Felix Driver of Royal Holloway University of London was the first speaker at the Plant Humanities Conference at Dumbarton Oaks, which is the focus of this series of posts.  He was one of the authors of a recent report mapping out future plans for the plant humanities in Britain, making him a good choice for the leadoff role.  He was also the principle investigator for a study called the Mobile Museum on how the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew distributed items from its Economic Botany Collection to schools and museums throughout the country, while still maintaining the core collection at Kew (Driver, Nesbitt & Cornish, 2021).  The height of the distribution was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It was a way to provide hands-on exhibit and spread the word not only about the usefulness of a large variety of plants, but also the ability of the British Empire to develop and utilize plant products.

The economic botany collection still exists at Kew under the care of Mark Nesbitt, another contributor to the Mobile Museum project.  With over 100,000 items, the collection is growing, though most items are no longer exhibited as they were when Kew had four buildings with economic botany exhibits in the early 20th century (Nesbitt & Cornish, 2016).  Now the collection is used for research that often involves what Driver terms “co-producing knowledge with nonacademic partners.”  This includes collaborations with Pacific barkcloth makers and North Brazilian Amazonia indigenous peoples.  Driver ended his presentation with a photo of one item in the collection, a glass lime juice bottle.  He chose this because his grandfather had been born on a lime plantation in Monserrat, with lime juice shipped in barrels from there to bottling plants in England.  The bottle is a small symbol of the British colonial apparatus.

The next day Ashanti Shih, who teaches history at Vassar College, presented on her research in the collections of Hawaii’s Bishop Museum.  She was studying the career of the German botanist Otto Degener who worked in Hawaii for thirty years.  She focused on his interactions with Asian and indigenous people whom he employed.  One of the latter was Henry Wiebke, a native Hawaiian of the Kanaka Maoli people.  Wiebke was studying medicine, and Degener hired him because he had knowledge of native plants, their indigenous names, habitats, and uses.   The pair planned to write two books, one a popular guide to the flora of the Hawaiian National Park, the second a comprehensive flora of the Hawaiian Islands.  After working together as colleagues and friends for six years, their relationship frayed, at least in part over Wiebke’s decision to defer his medical training in order to work to support his family.  He did collaborate for some time with Degener after this, but eventually they parted ways.

When Degener did publish the books, they were without mention of Wiebke (Degener, 1945; 1932-1969), but the erasure of his contribution went beyond that.  Shih showed a specimen of the iconic silver sword, Argyroxiphium caliginis, collected by both men.  Degener’s name is printed on the label with the typed addition of “and Henry Wiebke.”  But Degener later crossed out the latter, as he did on a number of sheets.  This was a small record of petulance preserved in a herbarium where few would see it, until the age of digitization when the principles were long gone.  Shih related the story with more nuance, but the message was clear that here was one of many untold cases of appropriation of indigenous knowledge without proper, or any, attribution.

The next day the conference provided a very different aspect of indigenous knowledge and in this case, its relationship to art.  The presentation was by the artist Temitayo Ogunbiyi, a Jamaican-American from New York who has lived in Lagos, Nigeria since 2011.  She is interested in the culture of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and found a 1995 book by Pierre Verger, The Uses of Plants in Yoruba Society, with Latin and vernacular plant names.  It also has poetry that Ogunbiyi uses for inspiration for her art which often includes plant forms.  Several years ago, Ogunbiyi was an artist-in-residence at the Smithsonian, and as she delved into collections she became fascinated by the herbarium.  There she asked a very basic question:  why are herbarium sheets always 11.5 by 16.5 inches?  She couldn’t get a good answer, and that just added to her interest in the sheets.  She now does her drawings on herbarium paper, which she sees as “pivotal to my practice.”  She showed several of her works from a recent exhibit in the Berlin Biennale.  They often combine plant forms with African hairstyles in intriguing ways.  She noted that in southwest Nigeria, hairstyles have meaning, and that the head is the foundation of the Yoruba religious practice Ifá.

It’s this thoughtful interweaving of indigenous practice, plants, and art that makes Ogunbiyi’s art so fascinating to me.  She has journeyed back to the continent from which her ancestors were transported centuries ago, and she uses that cultural heritage along with what amounts to a colonial artifact, the herbarium sheet, as a vehicle for exploring it.  She sees her drawings as a form of plant portraiture and the presence of human forms reveals the connections between the two worlds present in Yoruba traditions.  To me, her work and her presentation suggest the power of the plant humanities to open up new worlds for all of us.

References

Degener, O. (1932). Flora Hawaiiensis: The New Illustrated Flora of the Hawaiian Islands (Vol. 1–7). Honolulu.

Degener, O. (1945). Ferns and Flowering Plants of Hawaii National Park. Ann Arbor, MI: Edward Brothers.

Driver, F., Nesbitt, M., & Cornish, C. (Eds.). (2021). Mobile Museums: Collections in Circulation. London: UCL Press.

Nesbitt, M., & Cornish, C. (2016). Seeds of industry and empire: Economic botany collections between nature and culture. Journal of Museum Ethnography, 29, 53–70. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43915938

Verger, P. (1995). Ewé: The Use of Plants in Yoruba Society. São Paolo: Odebrecht.

More Books: The Vasculum

Recently I wrote a series of posts (1,2,3,4) on books about plants that view them in broad contexts.  After I finished, I realized that I still had a stack I hadn’t gotten to, so I’m doing a second series.  I’m beginning with a book I fell in love with even though I have to admit to not doing a very good job of reading it.  It’s Régine Fabri’s (2021) volume in French on the vasculum, the long metal box for collecting in the field that was the emblem of the 19th century botanist.  I heard Fabri speak on the vasculum at the joint meeting of American and European botanical librarians held at the New York Botanical Garden in 2018.  Since then she has retired as chief librarian at the Meise Botanic Garden in Belgium.  She obviously has not been idle, but this book is hardly just a work of retirement; it’s clear she has been doing research on the subject for years.

Fabri was well-prepared for the challenge with a doctorate in botany and years of research in systematics leading to the publication of the volume on umbellifers for the General Flora of Belgium.  She then moved into library work and clearly became a master of ferreting out information.  Since my French is rudimentary, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the text.  However, from the number of topics she covers and the wide variety of images she includes (300 in all), she knows her subject literally inside out.  She must have had a great deal of fun putting this book together, but it must also have been a great deal of work.  I can’t imagine what was involved in finding and organizing 300 images.  Each one makes a contribution to bringing the vasculum back from, as she writes in her subtitle, “obscurity.”

As Fabri notes, the first published mention of using a metal box to store specimens when out collecting was made in 1704 by William Stukeley. A British antiquarian, he wrote about students of materia medica going on fieldtrips with a copy of John Ray’s catalogue of English plants and a metal candle box, a long cylindrical container with a door on its side, perfect for adding candles or plants—and about the right size to take into the field (Allen, 1965).  It’s sturdiness meant the plant material was less likely to be damaged in transport than if put into a bag or carried loose.  The idea caught on.  The candle box eventually was fitted with a leather strap to make it easy to carry over the shoulder and morphed into a vasculum, from the Latin for vase.  By the 19th century it was marketed along with plant presses and hand lenses not only to botanists, who were becoming more and more professionalized, but also to the ever-increasing number of natural history enthusiasts.

Increased demand led to specialization.  The vasculum was produced in different sizes, including one three feet long for those who didn’t want their specimens folded and were willing to tote the giant around—or were collecting by horseback or carriage.  There were also small ones made for young collectors to start them off on the road to botany.  These were often decorated with paintings of young children going plant hunting.  There were other versions painted with more sophisticated art to appeal to feminine tastes.  The vasculum became an attractive accessory, so much more becoming than carrying a tin simply painted black or green.  Fabri includes dozens of photos of vasculums, including many from her own collection.  I remember her saying in her lecture that there were a few she coveted but which were beyond her budget, indicating that the antique vasculum market must be hotter than that for new ones, which are still for sale in natural history catalogues.

Some of the most intriguing images in the book depict the vasculum being used in the field.  These range from a painting of Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland collecting near Mt. Chimborazo in Peru, where Bonpland is sitting with his vasculum at his side, to 19th-century genre paintings picturing rather inept collectors attempting to look like they know what they are doing.  There are also many prints, newspaper cuttings, book illustrations, and advertisements culled from publications in many different languages.  This is where Fabri’s library skills shine.  She knew how to find even the most obscure references, and I suspect, how to use her social skills to get the help of fellow librarians who enjoyed joining in the hunt. 

The very ordinary plastic bag was one of the chief reasons for the decline in the use of the vasculum.  It was lighter, waterproof, and less likely to crush specimens.  But Fabri makes it clear that it is simply not as much fun.  As you can see I loved this book, despite the language barrier, or maybe because of it:  I spent more time pouring over the images.  Amazon doesn’t seem to cater to the Francophile, so I bought a copy from the Meise Botanic Garden online bookshop.  At 25 Euros, it was a bargain.  I got my book within a couple of weeks after I ordered it.  I don’t think you will be disappointed, and the next time you go out collecting, you might feel a twinge of regret that you don’t have a vasculum handy for your cuttings.

References

Allen, D. E. (1965). Some further light on the history of the vasculum. Proceedings of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, 6, 105–109.

Fabri, R. (2021). Le vasculum ou boîte d’herborisation: Marqueur emblémetique du botantiste du XIX siècle, objet désuet devenu vintage. Meise, BEL: Jardin Botanique de Meise.

Catesby’s Travels

Yellow pitcherplant (Sarracenia flava) and Southern toad (Anaxyrus terrestris) by Mark Catesby, Vol. 2 Illus. 69 in Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands

In the last post, I discussed the University of South Carolina’s Mark Catesby Centre and its work to bring Catesby’s legacy into the 21st century.  Now I want to dig a little more deeply into that legacy and how it developed.  Every discussion of Catesby begins with the disclaimer that not much is known about his life, and to a certain extent this is true.  There is little information about his early years with somewhat more his life after he returned to England.  However, the more historians have studied existing records about him and put these together with what they can glean from others’ correspondence and journals, Catesby has, in a sense, has come more to life.  One expert is the botanist E. Charles Nelson (2018), a member of the Centre’s affiliated faculty, who has delved into what books were in Catesby’s library.  Nelson also researched Catesby’s relationship with his uncle, Nicholas Jekyll who was a gardener and was friendly with John Ray and with Samuel Dale, a supporter of Catesby’s travels.  This is likely where Catesby developed his interest in plants and learned the basics.  However, there is no record of his having any formal education, though he came from a family that was comfortable if not wealthy. 

The next phase of Catesby’s life was his first trip to North America from 1712 to 1719.  He accompanied his sister to get her safely settled with her husband, a physician serving the governor of Virginia at Williamsburg.  It’s assumed Catesby spent much of his time working on his brother-in-law’s farm, but he also developed a friendship with two men who had a serious interest in plants, William Byrd II and John Custis.  Byrd had a large library and a greenhouse, Custis a variety of exotic plants growing in his garden.  Catesby traveled up the James River toward the Appalachian Mountains and also made other trips closer to home.  He gathered seeds and various plant materials, sending them to Dale who was impressed with them and with Catesby’s knowledge (Nelson & Elliott, 2015). 

When Catesby returned to England, Dale put him in touch with other botanists of the day such as William Sherard and Hans Sloane.  They encouraged Catesby to return to North America and more systematically collect specimens, seeds, and seedlings.  They also encouraged his artistic talent and his ability to write vividly on natural history.  These three men, along with 9 others, sponsored his second trip which was focused further south.  Many were members of the Royal Society, and Catesby later presented a report on his travels at an RS meeting.  After he visited with the botanical minded in Charleston, he began to explore the area, particularly north of Charleston where there were several large plantations as well as much wild country.

Catesby had brought supplies for painting watercolors of the organisms he found and also for making collections, particularly of plants, though he did collect shells, skins of birds and other animals, and insects as well.  He wrote of Native Americans he encountered and their uses for plants, especially for medicinal purposes.  He traveled down the coast of Carolina and then inland, perhaps as far as Clemson probably using Native American trails (Brown, 2022).  He also visited Fort Moore, across the river from what is now Augusta, Georgia on three occasions, and explored central Carolina.   Georgia was then considered part of Florida.  Finally, Catesby sailed to the Bahama Islands where he remained for a year before traveling back to England.  This is a hurried travelogue, but I want to get to his artistic work after his return because without that there would probably not be a Catesby Centre.

Catesby presented his sponsors with the fruits of his voyage in terms of plant material and correspondence, but he did not want to relinquish his drawings until he had used them to create the illustrations for the book he was planning.  He quickly discovered that to publish a work on the scale he envisioned would be very costly.  He couldn’t afford to have an expert create etched plates, so he learned from a master of the art Joseph Goupy and made his own, as well as writing the text in both English and French and advertising for subscribers.  He even hand-colored some of the prints in the first volume himself.  This volume was completed in 1731 and the second in 1743.  Each volume had 100 spectacular etchings, and there was an additional 20 in an Appendix to the second volume that was published four years later. 

While working on this opus, Catesby collaborated with nurserymen who were cultivating a number of the plants he brought back.  At times, the Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands reads almost like a catalogue where he extols the virtues of a North American tree or shrub now grown by one of his associates.  After the second volume was published he began work on something of a spin-off, Hortus Europae Americanus, with plates based on portions of the original plates.  Published posthumously, It focused on trees and shrubs and was much closer to a nurserymen’s publication in that it included practical information on growth habits and conditions for the pictured species.  This is a much less spectacular work, but I find It very pleasing to look at, with each plate divided into four sectors picturing four species. 

References

Brown, H. (2022). Catesby in Carolina. South Carolina Wildlife, January/February, 4–11.

Nelson, E. C., & Elliott, D. J. (Eds.). (2015). The Curious Mister Catesby: A Truly Ingenious Naturalist Explores New Worlds. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Mark Catesby in South Carolina

The naturalist, author, and artist Mark Catesby landed in Charleston, South Carolina on May 3, 1722 on his second visit to North America.  To celebrate the 300th anniversary, the Mark Catesby Centre at the University of South Carolina, Columbia presented a symposium, Catesby at 300.  The Centre is part of the University Libraries, and its Rare Book Collection has mounted a special exhibition running, Catesby in the Carolinas, which also includes exhibits at the university’s McKissick Museum with its extensive natural history collection; it runs through August.  The University Libraries holds five copies of Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands representing all three editionsSince there were less than 200 copies printed of the first edition and about 100 survive, this is an amazing treasure and well worth showing off.  This fine collection is one reason the rare print collector Herbert Fitzgerald decided to augment it by donating over 120 Catesby prints to the university and also why the independent Catesby Commemorative Trust found a new home there as the Catesby Centre.

David Elliott founded the Trust 20 years ago and was pleased to have it become part of the university so it can continue its already significant achievements in making Mark Catesby’s legacy better known today.  I first learned about its work when the Trust sponsored a six-day tour of Catesby-related sites from Washington, DC to Charleston in 2012.  It was a unique opportunity to travel with a group of participants and presenters that included the botanists James Reveal and Ghillean Prance who spoke of the plants Catesby encountered.  Charlie Jarvis (2007), who wrote the definitive work on Carl Linnaeus’s type specimens, discussed the plants that Carl Linnaeus named based on Catesby specimens and prints.  The two even exchanged letters and met when Linnaeus was in London early in his career.  Stephen Harris presented via video on the Catesby specimens at the Oxford University Herbaria.  They are part of the collections of Charles Dubois and William Sherard who were among those sponsoring his trip.  In return, they received specimens and seeds. 

At the Smithsonian, we saw its copies of Catesby’s books and heard from Leslie Overstreet who has done extensive work on the extant copies, including how they vary across the editions and even within an edition.  One cause of variations is that the volumes were not sold bound, but sent to subscribers in fascicles of 20 prints each along with a page of text for each print.  The copy that is now in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle was purchased by King George III and includes an original Georg Ehret painting.  This was among the interesting information provided by Henrietta McBurney who had been a curator at the Royal Library and had written a book on the 240 original Catesby watercolors also purchased by the George III.  They had not been given much attention over the years until McBurney and others on the staff examined them along with several other important natural history art collections.

Besides tours of a number of historic homes in Richmond, Virginia and Charleston that held original Catesby prints, we also took a boat trip along the Kiawah River in areas that Catesby visited.  This was a wonderful experience because we went through a large nature preserve that is a sanctuary for sea birds.  We saw not only many species, but large populations of them.  It really gave at least some sense of what South Carolina was like when Catesby visited.  I would like to reminisce more about this wonderful tour, but I want to mention other contributions made by the Catesby Commemorative Trust including the publication of the award winning book, The Curious Mister Catesby (Nelson & Elliott, 2015).  It includes chapters based on presentations given during the tour as well as other essays covering everything from Catesby’s biography, to his relationship to the horticulture trade between Britain and the colonies and his activities during the year he spent in the Bahama Islands.  The book was edited by David Elliott and E. Charles Nelson, an Irish botanist, writer, and editor who has been an integral part of the work of the Trust and now of the Catesby Centre.  He and Elliott are putting together a new book that will include a catalog of the Catesby prints donated by Fitzgerald as well as essays on the plants, birds, insects, and fishes pictured in Natural History.  These include those mentioned in Catesby’s introductory essay, “An Account of Carolina and the Bahama Islands,” but not pictured in any of the prints.  Since established within the University Libraries, the Centre has also overseen the digitization of the first edition Catesby as well as the Fitzgerald prints.

I am fortunate to have been invited to be part of the Catesby Centre’s work as affiliate faculty along with Herrick Brown the director of the A.C. Moore Herbarium in the university’s biology department, Christian Cicimurri curator of collections at the McKissick Museum, Rudy Mancke the university’s natural in residence, and Michael Weisenberg associate director of Rare Books and Special Collections in the University Libraries.  The entire list of those contributing to this effort are listed here.  I have learned a great deal from this project, and I’m very grateful to be a part of it.  I consider myself lucky to have landed at the university shortly before the Centre did.  In the following posts, I’ll discuss some of the latest discoveries about Catesby’s life and art, and end with a recap of the symposium held in May. 

References

McBurney, H. (1997). Mark Catesby’s Natural History of America: The Watercolors from the Royal Library Windsor Castle. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts.

Nelson, E. C., & Elliott, D. J. (Eds.). (2015). The Curious Mister Catesby: A Truly Ingenious Naturalist Explores New Worlds. Athens, GA. University of Georgia Press.

Aesthetics as Guide

Glechoma hederacea, Stadhuis Museum Zierikzee, NLD

In the last post, I discussed a number of studies that found biases in plant collecting based on a plant’s size, form, and color.  These are considered aesthetic selections, not grounded in objective properties such as a plant’s rarity or conservation status.  While bias can weaken a study’s findings and should be guarded against, I don’t think aesthetics can be totally eliminated from collecting, nor should it be.  There is a lot more to the aesthetics of collecting than just which plants are selected.  First, there is the overall experience of being outdoors, surrounded by plants and moving through a landscape.  The exhilaration of walking in an unfamiliar area or the comfort of a familiar one.  For most botanists, collecting is a scientifically and personally important part of their lives.  It can engage all the senses including the kinesthetic.  Pulling a plant up by its roots, selecting branches to cut, and then wrestling these into plastic bags or between pieces of newspaper involve many sensations and movements all at once.  At least for some plants, this is the most difficult and sensorial part of collecting—with scents and sounds abounding.  Many plants do not readily become two dimensional.  It can be a challenge, especially for a spiny species.   The work is going on as the brain is absorbing information and organizing it for identification.  This is definitely an experience in John Dewey’s (1934) sense of the word, where mind and body are involved working as one. 

            Phenomenology is the analysis of experience, becoming aware of what is going on while doing or sensing something.  It is, in the jargon of today, being mindful and realizing just how much is involved, appreciating the richness of a moment:  feelings as well as thoughts.  In other words, phenomenological analysis helps us appreciate the aesthetic aspects of life and is one reason why it is a popular philosophical tradition among artists, and perhaps it should be used more by scientists.  Some are much more aware of the aesthetic aspects of their work than others.  Years ago, the biochemist Arthur Kornberg (1989) wrote a memoir called For the Love of Enzymes describing the joys of his work.  The chemist Roald Hoffmann published a series of articles (1988-1989) on what makes molecules attractive after his wife asked him to explain why he called a chemical structure “beautiful.”  Both these men won Nobel Prizes, so their interest in the aesthetic is significant, especially because they chose to share this side of science with nonscientists.

              Another chemist whose writings are relevant here is Michael Polanyi (1966) who developed the concept of tacit knowledge, the mind and body work so closely that it’s impossible to put the experience into words.  Driving a car is one example, and expertly processing specimens is another.  Someone can explain these activities, but there is so much physical as well as mental work entailed that they can only be learned by doing.  Because mind and body are acting together, feelings are intimately integrated in pressing specimens and even more in mounting them.  The issue is how to take the material that has already been pressed and arrange it as attractively as possible, while not having too much overlap among parts, making sure both sides of leaves are visible, and displaying flowers with as much information as possible apparent.  However, there are limits to what a preparator can do with pressed material, which is why care in the field is essential. 

One problem with aesthetic considerations is that by their nature they are difficult to verbalize.  They are tacit; you know a beautiful specimen when you see it.  Many times I’ve come across descriptions of collections in which the superior quality of the specimens is mentioned.  This usually means that they are not skimpy, but at the same time they don’t look like unruly hairdos on the sheet.  Also labels and barcodes are not askew, a sign of hasty preparation.  These elements are noted.  The preparators at New York Botanical Gardens would comment on “certain people” who weren’t careful about the barcodes, thus taking away from the overall appearance of the sheet.  The same care needs to be taken with fragment envelopes and determination slips, as well as sketches and other notes that might be included.  A herbarium sheet can involve quite a few elements.  Their arrangement can make a difference not only in how good it looks, but in how easy it is to “read” or make sense of the elements.  The objective and subjective can’t be separated.

Every herbarium curator has favorite specimens taken out to show on group tours or for a visiting researcher.  Usually these include at least one particularly striking sheet, perhaps with a flower that has kept its color or a beautifully draped vine or a well-pressed orchid.  This is all about visual aesthetics.  But there are other kinds of aesthetic choices made, as in selecting sheets that have good stories related to them: a specimen collected by Joseph Banks on James Cook’s first voyage around the world or by Charles Darwin or by Margaret Gatty at the seashore in Britain.  Here history and science are rolled into one in a way that can be memorable and exciting to the viewers.  This is definitely part of the aesthetic aspect of botany for both botanists and the general public. 

References

Dewey, J. (1934). Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch.

Hoffmann, R. (1988a). Molecular beauty. American Scientist, 76, 389–391.

Hoffmann, R. (1988b). Molecular beauty II: Frogs about to be kissed. American Scientist, 76, 604–605.

Hoffmann, R. (1989a). Molecular beauty III: As rich as need be. American Scientist, 77, 177–178.

Hoffmann, R. (1989b). Molecular beauty IV: Toward an aesthetic theory of six-coordinate carbon. American Scientist, 77, 330–332.

Kornberg, A. (1989). For the Love of Enzymes: The Odyssey of a Biochemist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Polanyi, M. (1966). The Tacit Dimension. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Aesthetics as Suspect

Gentiana ligustica, photo Botanical Garden of Fribourg

An article published last year deals with bias in the selection of plants for botanical studies (Adamo et al., 2021).  A survey of 280 investigations published between 1975 and 2020 on a well-studied alpine flora found that “morphological and colour traits, as well as range size, have significantly more impact on species choice for wild flowering plants than traits related to ecology and rarity” (p. 574).  Specifically, plants with blue flowers, those that were relatively tall, and those with larger flowers were more likely to be selected along with plants with wider ranges.  None of this is really news since a number of studies using digitized herbarium specimens have found spatial, temporal, and trait biases (Daru et al., 2018; Troudet et al., 2017).  However, the emphasis here on what the authors term “aesthetic” traits drew attention, with Nature (“Flower Power: Pretty Plants Are the Most Studied,” 2021) and Scientific American (“A Flashy Focus,” Kramer, 2021) running news stories including a photo of a blue gentian flower from the journal article.

In their conclusion, the authors came down quite heavily on the problems associated with this bias.  If researchers were attracted by color, form, and size rather than the conservation status particularly of rare plants, then the species that need the most attention would not be getting it:  “This apparently superficial preference has implicit and undesired effects as it translates into an aesthetic bias in the data that form the basis for scientific research and practices.”  They continue, “. . . it would be desirable to develop measures to counteract it, given the potentially negative impact on our understanding of the ecology and evolution of plants and the conservation of vital plant biodiversity” (p. 576). 

In their introduction, Adamo et al. write:  “These biases should be taken into account to inform more objective plant conservation efforts “(p. 574), thus juxtaposing science as objective and aesthetics as subjective.  I take umbrage with this and their implication that “aesthetic” is superficial and undesirable, therefore antithetical to scientific research.  My dissertation was on the aesthetic of biology, so I admit to my own bias, but this work taught me that the aesthetic is an integral part of scientific inquiry and cannot be expunged.  The two are not in opposition in part because the standard mind/body dichotomy is simply wrong.  There is more and more evidence that brain function is intimately interwoven with the physiology of the rest of the body, and so therefore are thinking and feeling.  Feelings generate thoughts and vice versa (Damasio, 2000). 

As far as attraction to large, brightly colored flowers is concerned, as Adamo et al. admit, this bias may be part of our biology.  We are a species that relies a great deal on sight, so in scanning a green landscape, a contrasting color is likely to stand out (Arnheim, 1969).  In studies of collection bias based on herbarium specimens, some researchers found that there was a bias toward collecting white flowers (Panchen et al., 2019) and more than one study has found a bias against collecting plants with green or brownish inflorescences, described as “unattractively colored” in one article (Schmidt-Lebuhn et al., 2013, p.  905).  There are biases for tall plants in one article (Williams & Pearson, 2019) and perennials over annuals in another (Daru et al., 2018).  There are also biases against collecting spiny plants:  this might also be seen as aesthetic in nature:  getting stuck repeatedly is not pleasurable (Schmidt-Lebuhn et al., 2013).  Spatial collecting biases are well-documented and myriad, with sites near roads or railroads, populated areas, and research institutions being more often visited than those that are remote and difficult to access (Haque et al., 2017).  This may also be seen as at least partially aesthetic in origin.  Botanists are human beings who like their creature comforts.

But not all biases are driven by aesthetics.  Colonial powers directed a great deal of collecting in the past, as witnessed by the large Asian, African, and Latin American collections in Europe (Brockway, 1979).  Collection today can often be influenced by a collector’s or an institution’s research interests for a particular family or class.  Since the early modern era, useful plants have been sought after, and this trend continues with quests for crop wild relatives and medicinal plants.  Mark Nesbitt (2014) of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew notes that useful plants are over-represented in herbaria worldwide.  What digitization of specimens on a large scale has done is to make these biases much easier to discover because large data sets can be analyzed without actually examining each specimen.  Now all types of biases are more identifiable and therefore more addressable. 

What is important to me about the study on alpine plants is that is brings aesthetics front and center into a discussion of scientific research, something that doesn’t happen very often.  Many scientists will discuss their attraction to certain topics or species or types of research, but it doesn’t usually get written about in journal articles.  This perpetuates the assumption that science is an “objective” activity.  It neglects what Gerald Holton (1973) calls the “private side of science:”  how science is really done—with all its joys, mistakes, brilliant insights, and wrong turns that get edited out of publications.  John Dewey (1932) argued that any deeply lived experience, and research is definitely that, is an aesthetic experience.  This is the topic I want to explore in the next three posts in this series on the role aesthetics play in collecting and preparing specimens, studying them, and communicating about them.

References

Adamo, M., Chialva, M., Calevo, J., Bertoni, F., Dixon, K., & Mammola, S. (2021). Plant scientists’ research attention is skewed towards colourful, conspicuous and broadly distributed flowers. Nature Plants, 7(5), 574–578. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-021-00912-2

Arnheim, R. (1969). Visual Thinking. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Brockway, L. B. (1979). Science and Colonial Expansion: The Role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens. New York: Academic Press.

Damasio, A. (2000). The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. San Diego: Mariner.

Daru, B. H., Park, D. S., Primack, R. B., Willis, C. G., Barrington, D. S., Whitfeld, T. J. S., Seidler, T. G., Sweeney, P. W., Foster, D. R., Ellison, A. M., & Davis, C. C. (2018). Widespread sampling biases in herbaria revealed from large-scale digitization. New Phytologist, 217(2), 939–955. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14855

Dewey, J. (1934). Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch.

Flower Power: Pretty plants are the most studied. (2021). Nature, 593, 317.

Haque, Md. M., Nipperess, D. A., Gallagher, R. V., & Beaumont, L. J. (2017). How well documented is Australia’s flora? Understanding spatial bias in vouchered plant specimens. Austral Ecology, 42(6), 690–699. https://doi.org/10.1111/aec.12487

Kramer, J. (2021). A flashy focus. Scientific American, 325(2), 24.

Nesbitt, M. (2014). Use of herbarium specimens in ethnobotany. In J. Salick, K. Konchar, & M. Nesbitt (Eds.), Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook (pp. 313–328). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Panchen, Z. A., Doubt, J., Kharouba, H. M., & Johnston, M. O. (2019). Patterns and biases in an Arctic herbarium specimen collection: Implications for phenological research. Applications in Plant Sciences, 7(3), e01229. https://doi.org/10.1002/aps3.1229

Schmidt-Lebuhn, A. N., Knerr, N. J., & Kessler, M. (2013). Non-geographic collecting biases in herbarium specimens of Australian daisies (Asteraceae). Biodiversity and Conservation, 22(4), 905–919. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-013-0457-9

Troudet, J., Grandcolas, P., Blin, A., Vignes-Lebbe, R., & Legendre, F. (2017). Taxonomic bias in biodiversity data and societal preferences. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 9132. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-09084-6

Williams, J., & Pearson, K. D. (2019). Examining collection biases across different taxonomic groups: Understanding how biases can compare across herbarium datasets. American Journal of Undergraduate Research, 15(4), 47–53. https://doi.org/10.33697/ajur.2019.005