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collection of dried and mounted plant specimens used in systematic botany. To preserve their form and color, plants collected in the field are spread flat in sheets of newsprint and dried, usually in a plant press, between blotters or absorbent paper. The specimens, mounted on sheets of stiff white paper, are labeled with all essential data, e.g., date, where found, description of the plant, altitude, special habitat conditions, and placed in a protective case. As a precaution against insect attack the pressed plant is frozen or poisoned and the cases disinfected. Herbariums are essential for the study and verification of plant classification, the study of geographic distributions, and the standardizing of nomenclature. Thus inclusion of as much of the plant (e.g., flowers, stems, leaves, seed, and fruit) as possible is desirable. Linnaeus' herbarium now belongs to the Linnaean Society in England. Most universities maintain herbariums. Notable herbariums in the United States include the Gray Herbarium at Harvard and those at the U.S. National Museum (of the Smithsonian Institution) and at the New York and Missouri botanical gardens.


See P. W. Leenhouts, A Guide to the Practice of Herbarium Taxonomy (1968); P. K. Holmgren et al., ed., Index Herbariorum (1990).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) A collection of specially gathered dried plants, intended for scientific processing. A more or less complete herbarium, gathered within a definite territory, makes possible “systematic floristic study. Compilation of a herbarium is usually accompanied by various geobotanical, soil, and other studies.

One of the largest herbariums in the world, consisting of over 5 million sheets, is in the V. L. Komarov Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (Leningrad). The herbarium at Moscow State University numbers over 600,000 sheets. The principal herbarium of the flora of Middle Asia is stored at the Middle Asian State Institute (Tashkent). There are important herbariums in Kiev (approximately 900,000 sheets), Tbilisi, Tomsk, and other cities of the USSR. The largest herbariums abroad are in Prague, London (Linnaean Herbarium), at Kew Gardens (approximately 6.5 million), Geneva (de Candolle and Boissier, 4 million), Paris (6 million, including 1 million sheets of spore plants), Washington, D.C., and Vienna.

Besides general floristic herbariums, there are special ones containing food, commercial, and other plants. For example, the All-Union Institute of Horticulture in Leningrad has the world’s largest collection of cereal, vegetable, and other plants. Plants gathered for a herbarium are filed in a field portfolio between unpasted sheets of paper, and tied. Each plant taken for the herbarium is accompanied by a label (5 × 10 cm) indicating its sequential number, name, location (oblast, region, nearest populated place), habitat (meadow, forest), collection date, and surname and initials of the collector. The plants are first spread to dry between sheets of absorbent paper (filter, wrapping, newsprint) with 3-4 blank sheets between those with plants. The dried plants are mounted on sheets of heavy paper 42 × 28 cm, and the label is transferred to this sheet (on the lower right).

(2) An establishment to house collections of dried plants and to process them scientifically. In a herbarium the sheets with plants of the same species are placed in the general, so-called species file or jacket, and sheets with plants of the same genus in the genus file. Herbariums of plant families are in separate folders. Plant species are filed alphabetically, genera alphabetically or in taxonomic order, and families usually in taxonomic order.


Siuzev, P. V. Gerbarii, 7th ed. Moscow, 1949.
Shishkin, B. K. Kak sostavliat’ gerbarii, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1941.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A collection of plant specimens, pressed and mounted on paper or placed in liquid preservatives, and systematically arranged.
A building where a herbarium is housed.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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