Daisies find a new home in Kew's Herbarium
By: William Milliken - 07/12/2010
Kew's vast collection of herbarium specimens of the Compositae (daisy) family is now rehoused in pest-free low-temperature storage in the new wing of the Herbarium.
The new wing of the Kew Herbarium, specially designed for maintenance of specimens in a pest-free environment, now hosts a completely reorganised, relabelled collection of Compositae – the daisy family. This was no mean task, and has taken six months of intensive work by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers.
Professor David Mabberley, Keeper of the Herbarium, and Sue Frisby with the last specimens to be moved
The project was managed by Dr Nicholas Hind, Kew’s Compositae specialist. Many months before the move he was already developing a new taxonomic arrangement for the genera, based on the latest finding in molecular systematics, and helping to get the Herbarium’s new walk-in freezers to the point where they could bring the specimens down to -40 degrees centigrade: essential for ensuring that any herbarium beetles and their eggs are killed before entering the pest-free, climate-controlled storage vaults.
Scale of the task
The collection is huge. It was transferred from the original cabinets to 8,500 herbarium storage boxes which were moved in 1417 trolley-loads and 236 lift journeys, stopping for three days in the freezers en route: 60 freezer-days in total. If the boxes were laid end-to-end they would stretch for 2.25km and they now occupy about 2.75km of shelving! The boxes came wrapped in 6.2 km (half a tonne) of brown paper. Each box was labelled manually with details of its contents (genus, species, geographical region), using a layout designed to be read easily even on the highest shelves in the compactor storage units.
Setting in order
Bringing the taxonomic arrangement up to date was no small job either, with around three-quarters of a million specimens representing over 1,600 genera. During this process about 30,000 genus covers needed to be relabelled and/or replaced.
Kew now boasts an up-to-date, pest-free Compositae collection that is the envy of the botanical world. The team responsible is to be congratulated.
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