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Digitization Milestone at the University of Minnesota Herbarium

posted Oct 29, 2012, 11:40 AM by Katja Seltmann   [ updated Sep 12, 2013, 10:59 AM ]

Here at the University of Minnesota Herbarium (J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History), we have reached our first milestone – we have finished photographing our first plant family, the Pinaceae (almost 1200 specimens)!   

Anita F. Cholewa, Curator of the UM Herbarium (MIN) and Hannah Conley in front of their digitization light box and workstation.

The Pinaceae also will probably be our most difficult.  Since pines produce thickened bulky cones, these were often removed from the branches during the collecting stage to make filing in the museum more efficient, but it now meant cones had to be reunited with their branches, both barcoded, and both photographed.  Given the thickness of some cones, this was not always an easy task.

(Pinus lambertiana, sugar pine, branch and cone)

Additionally, spruces and hemlocks have a tendency to lose their needles upon drying, leaving specimens looking like winter collections of plant skeletons.   Thankfully most needles are captured during the drying stage and kept in small packets attached to the specimens, but the flip side required us to remove some of these needles so they could be photographed with the branch skeletons. 

(left: Tsuga canadensis, Canadian hemlock; right: Congdon collection of Pinus albicaulis, whitebark pine)

Although a difficult and time-consuming group of plants, the Pinaceae also included some interesting specimens.  Among our Minnesota plants was a collection of Tsuga canadensis (Canadian hemlock) that consisted of a cross-section through the trunk of the most northwestern and isolated population in the state.  And because our specimen database includes numerous collections from national parks and adjacent states these were also photographed.  These included historical collections by Joseph Whipple Congdon from Yosemite, among the earliest botanists collecting in that region.

Article by Anita F. Cholewa, Curator of the UM Herbarium (MIN)