Already renowned as a leading centre for plant science research, the University of Reading’s Herbarium is now a world resource for botanists after the launch of a new internet website featuring an ever-expanding database of specimens.
The Herbarium, which was founded in 1900, contains 264,500 plant specimens from around the world, with a particular focus on the United Kingdom and Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Morocco.
There are extensive collections of phanerogams, pteridophytes, bryophytes and lichens, and herbaria have been incorporated from the University’s former Department of Agricultural Botany, Southampton University and, most recently, the weed herbarium of Long Ashton Research Station in Bristol.
The new website currently allows researchers from across the globe to search for and see the data from around 35,000 specimens, and this will be considerably expanded in the future.
Visiting Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, launched the website on February 16, 2004. He said: "This is one of the country’s most important herbariums and the database on the new website will prove to be a most valuable tool for botanists."
Dr Stephen Jury, the Curator of the Herbarium, said that researchers will also be able to search for 976 paintings and drawings of Spanish plants by the late Jill Smythies.
He added: "The website database also contains information about the collectors represented in the Herbarium, and the plant identification service, so it really is a mine of information.
"Last year, the old website attracted 227,000 visitors – with these new additions and a user-friendly format, visitors will be able to make full use of the herbarium facilities while online."
The Herbarium’s new website can be accessed at http://www.herbarium.reading.ac.uk
University of Reading. February 2004.