We prepare our cultivated oaks and maples as herbarium specimens and provide them to the Herbarium at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University. With over 860,000 specimens, the Herbarium is a leading resource for studying plant evolution and classification.
Why is a herbarium important?
Herbaria are essential for the study of plant taxonomy or systematics—the study of finding, identifying, describing, classifying, and naming plants—as well as understanding the geographic distribution of plants. Specimens in herbaria are very useful to identify plants growing here or elsewhere. Plant specimens preserved in an herbarium represent the best record of the plant’s original distribution. We can use this information to understand changes due to habitat loss, climate change or other impacts by humans.
This information could also be used for writing a field guide or manual to aid in the identification of plants grown there. For example, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium at Cornell created a field guide of the 50 most common trees in New York State. Access the online guide.
If a plant becomes extirpated from an area or becomes extinct, specimens preserved in a herbarium may represent the only record of the plant’s original distribution. Scientists can use this data to understand changes in climate and impact by humans.
The Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium has historically been the major U. S. center for the systematics of cultivated plants. Today, the Hortorium’s mission has expanded to include systematic studies of wild and cultivated plants, ethnobotany, molecular systematics, paleobotany, phylogenetic theory, biodiversity studies, and pharmaceutical studies of tropical plants.
Learn more about the Bailey Hortorium.
Understanding Regional Wild Plants
In addition to providing our cultivated plants as specimens to the herbarium at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, we rely on the collection as a vast wealth of information on the distribution and abundance of wild plants in the region and beyond.
The central Finger Lakes region was extensively explored by Cornell Botanists in the early days of the university. In their studies, they were seeking to understand what species occurred here, how they were distributed, and which species were rare or common. For example, William R. Dudley, a professor of botany in the early 1880s, pursued cataloging the complete flora of the Cayuga Lake drainage. In 1886 he published the Cayuga Flora, which stimulated further floristic research and herbarium collections. In 1916, three graduate students began a survey of the plants and animals of McLean Bogs. Ultimately 24 Cornell scientists participated in what may be among the oldest, most complete biological surveys of a natural area anywhere. This early and complete documentation of the biota of McLean Bogs, including the complete herbaria records, makes it especially useful for research.
Many of the floristically rich and diverse destinations these early botanists identified remain so today. This early field work led to a greater awareness of the natural world, and helped inform a growing need for natural areas conservation, which collectively led to the protection of many of the natural areas now owned and managed by the Botanic Gardens.