Sometimes you have to celebrate milestones. Since October 2016 my project, as a volunteer in the herbarium of Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, has been to separate the collection of ferns from South Asia into smaller geographic groupings.
It is estimated that the South Asia (“Area 5”) collection of all plant species contains over 400,000 specimens. There has been concern about the risk of damage as people search through multiple folders for items of interest for their research. It was decided to divide the collection into smaller, more manageable groups, which will enable people to find specimens more easily. The South Asia section is being divided into five geographic regions: 5a – India, Bangladesh & Pakistan, 5b – Sri Lanka, 5c – Myanmar (Burma), 5d- Bhutan, Sikkim & Darjeeling, and 5e – Nepal. This also fits with the strategic focus of RBGE on producing floras of some regions, e.g. Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar, and will enable digitisation proposals and projects to be undertaken more easily. Once the specimens are divided they are given new folders and labels.
Much of this work of dividing the collection is being done by herbarium volunteers. I was lucky enough to be given the task of the dividing of all the fern specimens from South Asia. It has been very interesting to see so many lovely ferns, many of which I had never seen, or even heard of, before. It has also been fascinating to be handling specimens from some of the famous plant collectors, such as W. Griffith, Dr. Nathaniel Wallich, J.D. Hooker and George Forrest, some dating back to the mid-1800’s. But last week I finished dividing all the ferns! To celebrate one of the staff members brought in a cake decorated with a fern motif.