Garden News Blog

Herbarium Course at BBG

Students from across the U.S. and Canada are here for next two weeks to participate in a special course on herbarium techniques offered by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Here they will learn how to properly curate and conserve a scientific collection of preserved plants like the collection of over 320,000 specimens in the Garden’s herbarium.

Some of the 23 students have come from nearby herbaria, like Alina Freire-Fierro from the Academy of Natural Sciences Herbarium in Philadelphia, or Sara Helm from Longwood Gardens. Two have come all the way from Hawaii—Michael Thomas from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Tim Flynn from the National Tropical Botanical Garden; and one from Puerto Rico—Eugenio Santiago from the University of Puerto Rico

While in Brooklyn, they will be staying with some of the Garden’s Auxiliary and staff who have generously opened their homes to the traveling scholars. Because of these hosts’ generosity, the students will be able to enjoy the city, and the comfort of a nearby home. “I am so very thankful to all the hosts,” said Paul Harwood, BBG’s herbarium supervisor and the local organizer of the course. “Without their help, many of the students would not have been able to come to Brooklyn because of the cost of accommodations.”

Paul knows what this can mean. He attended the course 11 years ago at Kew, just outside London, and was able to stay in the home of Barrie Blewett, Kew's herbarium training coordinator. His friendship with Barrie is what led to this week's herbarium course. “Every time I would talk to Barrie or see him at a conference he would ask, ‘When are we going to bring the course to Brooklyn’,” said Paul. “I always hesitated because I knew it could be very expensive to stay here, but he was so persistent that after a while, I couldn’t say no.”

While here, the students will be working hard, learning in two weeks what would normally be presented over six weeks. They will take their new expertise back with them, but we also hope that they will bring home new friendships and fond memories of the generous heart of Brooklyn.

Kerry Barringer is a former curator of the Herbarium at BBG. He studies the plants of the Northeast, especially the mosses and liverworts, and makes detailed surveys of natural lands for state agencies and private conservation organizations. He works closely with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and has done a complete survey of their ten-thousand-acre Franklin Parker Preserve in the heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. He is also an authority on the Dutchman's pipe family, Aristolochiaceae, in the New World, and the tropical species in the snapdragon family, Scrophulariaceae.

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Students have come to BBG to learn how to properly curate and conserve a scientific collection of preserved plants. Photo by Kerry Barringer.