Field Techniques Used by Missouri Botanical Garden
SORTING AT MO
If you have to work on the specimens before they are labeled, add the collector's name to the newspaper. If the collections from several collectors are mixed together, two months or two years later it may be impossible to determine whose collection are which. They then become so much useless trash.
It is most efficient to sort the plants to family at the same time the labels are inserted. Combining the two steps takes only slightly longer than either step by itself.
The first step is to put all the labels of a number with any separate fruits, stem sections, etc. Then when going through the collection, you will be reminded there are separate parts, etc., when there are no labels for the collection.
It is much more efficient sorting specimens on herbarium carts than on an equal amount of counter space. Sitting at a table with a cart beside the table, there are 14 linear feet of space within reach. Fourteen feet at a counter means walking up to 14 feet every time a specimen is sorted. Separate stacks of larger families (Rubiaceae, Fabaceae, Asteraceae, ferns, Melastomataceae) are placed on a table next to the work space. On the cart the rest of the families are intercalated in alphabetical order.
Always keep the numbered side of the newspaper up. Frequently notes are written on the edge of the newspaper and it is time consuming to check both sides, or they are missed.
Never separate the only label to be sent with the gift for determination, etc., and leave behind specimens without labels. Not only is it more difficult to get a label made without the original, frequently it is impossible, particularly on older collections. Often it is not even known whose collection it is. Replacing labels is becoming much easier with computer label production, but it is nearly impossible to replace labels if the collector is unknown or if the collection originated at another institution.
With multiple-sheet specimens or separate fruits, each component should have a label before they are sent to mounting or to another institution.
When working with specimens always keep the newspaper, the plant, and labels together. If you take only the plant to another area, an interruption may occur that will cause you not to be able to put the label and plant back together.
Sorting plants to family and working on all of one family at a time is more efficient than working on a few at a time. It also puts less wear and tear on the herbarium and literature. Determinations tend to be more accurate and one can update the herbarium at the same time.