In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning of Herbarium 2. Functions of Herbarium 3. Kinds 4. Important Herbarium of The World 5. Significance.
Meaning of Herbarium:
A herbarium is a store house of plant specimens. In it dried, pressed, preserved and mounted plant specimens are arranged in a sequence of an accepted system of classification for future reference and study. The collected plant specimens from far and wide, mounted on appropriate sheets and kept in pigeon holes of steel or wooden cupboards for study at the same place and time.
According to Fosberg and Sachet (1965) a modern herbarium is a great filling system for information about plants both primary in the form of actual specimens and secondary in the form of published information, pictures and recorded notes.
Functions of Herbarium:
The main and valuable functions of herbarium are:
Conservatory of material and data:
The herbarium is a storehouse of plant materials with valuable data mentioned on their labels. The material in the herbarium remains as permanent record of flora of those regions even the natural topography and the vegetation have changed or extinct. In these the herbarium provide evidence of what once existed.
The herbarium specimens bear labels with adequate data on habitat, common name, native uses, ecological notes like frequency and abundance of species, associated plants, habit etc.
These types of data for the particular species, but from different collections of different regions, when carefully studied and analysed, provides valuable material for almost complete description of various taxonomic characters such as morphological range of variation, distribution etc.
A herbarium receives fresh material by collection of its staff, through gifts, exchanges etc. So it is a conservatory of material and data.
Role in teaching and research:
Herbarium acts as an aid in teaching botany to degree and post-graduate students. While teaching a teacher can show herbarium specimens if fresh material is not available at the time of giving the course.
It is of essential requirement for biosystematic research i.e., for correct identification and nomenclature besides a source of material. It provides research material for anatomical, palynological and chemotaxonomical studies.
According to Davis (1961) “in the herbarium we can compare all the related species of a genus in the same place, in the same state and at the same time”.
Kinds of Herbarium:
The kinds of herbaria depend upon the contents, purpose, region/place, plant groups – present in these:
The herbaria of medicinal plants:
The herbaria include specimens of plants of known medicinal value or supposed to have medicinal properties.
Herbaria of weeds:
The herbaria have weeds of cultivated fields and waste places.
The herbaria of a particular region or place e.g. Herbarium of Arid Zone circle, Jodhpur; Herbarium of Central Circle, Allahabad; Herbarium of a University or Institution.
Important Herbarium of The World:
The first herbarium of world has founded in 1545 in the University of Padua, Italy. In the world there are about one thousand five hundred recognised herbaria, besides many smaller herbaria with institutions, universities, pharmacies etc. Some important herbaria of the world and India are listed below along with their country, year of founding and approximate number of sheets.
Some Important Herbaria of the World:
The main aim of ………… herbaria is ………. to present a picture, by means of representative specimens, of the composition of the modern plant world…… herbaria must be the chief basis for future monographic, phytogeographical and ecological studies.
But they also serve many others beside the plant taxonomist: the economic botanists, the ethnobotanists, the morphologists, the geneticist the palynologist, and students of many other disciplines must seek much of their basic data in the collections and publications of systematic botanist.
Significance of Herbarium:
A modern herbarium serves a valuable significance in study of plant taxonomy.
Some significances are:
1. It provides valuable data and material.
2. Helped in all kinds of taxonomic researches.
3. It aids in assessment of conservation status of a taxon.
4. It acts as an aid in taxonomical researches.
5. It serves as a fundamental resource of identification of almost all plants of country and even world.
6. As source of estimation of global biodiversity.
7. It is a base line for data on distribution and abundance of keystone species.
8. It helps in distributional range and population biological studies.
9. The specimen tag carries all the information about habital, habit, local name, flower colour, etc., of plant specimen for further botanical, ethnototanical phytogeographical studies etc.
10. It may be useful as source of material for anatomy, palynology cytotaxonomy biochemistry, pharmacognosy etc. studies.
11. Herbarium serves as an aid in teaching plant taxonomy.
12. It may provide seeds of extinct plant species for further studies.