Amy Weiss works in The New York Botanical Garden’s Herbarium, cataloging and preserving plant specimens from around the world.
Part of my job in the Herbarium of the NYBG is processing plant collections researchers have stored over the years. In general, we only mount plants that have been identified to species. That process can be quick if there is currently a specialist–we send the person a duplicate of a plant collection, and they send us the plant’s name once it has been identified. However, identifying plants to specific species can take much longer if there is no one currently specializing in a certain family or genus.
Herbaria are important because they are the depositories of such historical collections, and with our care they will still be around when a specialist is available. Once identified, we mount the plant specimen for New York, and distribute any duplicates to other herbaria around the world. The collections gathered by NYBG scientists that are still waiting for identification reside in our cold room in the meantime, where they will occasionally remain for decades before the right specialist becomes available.