A herbarium is a museum of dried preserved plants and fungi that are valuable for scientific research. Herbaria around the world provide a scientific record of the earth's flora. The specimens housed in herbaria can be used for research in fields as diverse as systematics, restoration, invasive species, genetics, medicinal research, and historic climate change. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Nancy Poole Rich Herbarium offers scientists, citizen scientists, educators, and others electronic access to herbarium specimens via the Science Collections Database, thus allowing for the advancement of research and education while preserving the physical specimens.
A typical herbarium specimen consists of a dried and pressed plant affixed to a sheet of archival paper and a label providing descriptive information, including the scientific name, the date and locality of collection, collector name, as well as additional data. For each collection in the Science Collections Database, herbarium data are linked with data from the Garden’s Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank and DNA Repository as available.
The Garden's herbarium currently houses nearly 20,000 specimens, but it is continually growing. Some of the collections represented include flora of Cook County, Illinois; flora of the tallgrass prairie (including vouchers from Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank); plant exploration trips in Asia; and horticultural and native plants in the Garden's living collections, as well as collections from Garden scientists’ research.
For more information about the Nancy Poole Rich Herbarium, please contact Dr. Nyree Zerega.