Thursday 2 January 2014

Anniversaries and hopes for the future. 

On 2nd January 1944, a thirteen-year old school-leaver called Peter Sell started work at the Herbarium at the University of Cambridge and embarked upon a lifetime in botany that gave us publications like "Sell & Murrell". 
Herbarium volunteers, Univ. Leicester
Image: L. Marsh

Sadly, Peter died in October 2013 before he could complete a full seven decades at the Herbarium. So, as well as raising a glass to Peter's memory today, how about we try to "complete" those days for him? 

Peter Sell is, of course, irreplaceable, but even relatively inexperienced botanists can make a virtual contribution to herbarium curation with Herbaria@Home. This is a good way to get started, and you can also browse collectors, check what they saw in your area - some records go back over centuries - and find out why herbaria are so important to botanists. 

Chris Metherell in the Herbarium, Univ. Reading
Image: A. Culham (?)
Next step would be to give up one day this month to help out in your nearest herbarium, mounting specimens, printing labels or typing in data. We could soon make a difference to the backlog of herbarium specimens! 

If herbaria really don't appeal, there are lots of other ways to get involved with botany this year. Recording what's in flower for the New Year's Plant Hunt would be a great way to get started - and to raise a metaphorical glass to Peter Sell (1931-2013).


  1. I too can recommend volunteering at your local herbarium - outside the larger organisations you may end up as the only botanist looking after a collection which may not have been curated for years and may even have specimens which have never been looked at - great fun and useful too.

  2. Yes, lots of interesting and valuable work for experienced botanists in herbaria - and lots of ways that beginner botanists can help out too. It's also a great way to improve your plant ID skills - flick through a herbarium folder, with lots of specimens of one particular species, and you soon get its jizz!


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