National Arboretum Canberra


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Plant voucher specimens

Overview

The Plant Voucher Specimen project aims to provide a high quality set of herbarium specimens that will verify the species names being used at the National Arboretum Canberra.

By collecting and preserving a set of specimens of each species found on the site, a permanent record is established that confirms the identity of the species, as well as its occurrence there at the time of collection.

In the long term, if collecting of vouchers continues, it will be possible to track changes in the species found on the site. This is especially valuable with respect to the introduction of new species, such as weeds, but also applies to new species deliberately introduced. 

The value of the voucher collection increases the longer it is in existence.

The housing of this voucher collection at the Australian National Herbarium, Canberra, will make the specimens available for study, and importantly, will provide a significant method of flagging when name changes occur.

Housing a subset of the main collection at the Arboretum, in the form of a mini-herbarium, will provide staff, Friends, and in due course visitors, with a rich resource to help them identify species found on the site.

There may be approximately 400-500 species when all are finally collected.

Chief investigator

Dr Roger Hnatiuk, Member of the Friends of the National Arboretum is a retired, professionally trained and experienced botanist who has worked for a number of years in herbarium practice as a botanist, researcher, taxonomist, and senior manager.

Dr Hnatiuk has collected several thousand specimens which are housed in several of the State, Territory and National herbaria in Australia, as well as overseas, such as at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London. A number of these specimens have become type specimens. 

Other investigators

Citizen science volunteers who are members of the Friends of the National Arboretum.

Research aims

The primary aim of the project is to provide a formal, scientific set of permanent voucher specimens that provide the botanic references for the names being used for the plant species recorded for the National Arboretum Canberra site.

This voucher set has been agreed to be housed in the Australian National Herbarium (ANH) run jointly by the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) and the Commonwealth Scientific, Industry and Research Organisation (CSIRO).

The project will also provide an on-site mini-reference herbarium for the use of staff and Friends of the National Arboretum guides. In due course, this collection could be considered for public access if and when resources become available.

Methods
  • Standard herbarium style specimens will be collected of flowering and fruiting material (or other material as required for cryptogamic plants) for all species identified on the Arboretum site. These will be processed into the collections of the ANH, along with label information. Duplicates of labels will be produced for use with the Arboretum on-site mini collection.
  • The mini collection will be mounted on to A4 sheets of card, enclosed in plastic slip-covers and stored in Lever Arch style files on shelves in a suitable location at the Arboretum.
  • Collection numbers will be in a new set of numbers identified as NAC-xxxx. This is a similar system to the one used by the ANU, and is acceptable to the ANH. It allows for the straightforward location of Arboretum specimens, even when there are multiple collectors.
Research outcomes

The significance of the voucher specimens to the Arboretum is that they connect the names used for the species recorded on site and the scientific naming of those species.

By having voucher specimens in a major herbarium, the specimens will be curated along with all other specimens of the same species. When researchers work on those specimens or there are name changes discovered by the herbarium, those name changes will be notified to the Arboretum as a matter of course, thus helping to keep the names used at the Arboretum as up-to-date as possible.

Time frame

The first major collection will probably take place over the 2014-2016 period. Species that have not yet produced fertile material will continue to be monitored for collection in the future.

Outputs
  • At this stage, no formal publication is planned, but a report to the Friends of the National Arboretum Canberra, including a note for their newsletter will be published to document progress.
  • A plant list, with flags where vouchers have been collected should, in due course, appear on the Arboretum website.
  • When a suitably large proportion of the material has been vouchered, a report to the Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter may also be appropriate as a means of flagging the existence of the collection.
  • No formal mechanism has yet been established for reporting progress, but it is anticipated that an annual report will be prepared for the Friends of the National Arboretum Canberra Executive, and that a copy of that report will be presented to the Arboretum. It will document the number of specimens collected and processed, the number of volunteers involved, and at least for the forest trees species, which ones have vouchers and which ones are yet to be collected.
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