Review and Verification of the Birch Collections at the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland
Without careful record-keeping and a rigorous verification process, living plant collections are of limited scientific value. Living collections need to be managed to ensure that plants are correctly identified, that full provenance information is collated and recorded, that current taxonomic or classification systems are used and, lastly, that nomenclature is accurate. To achieve this, a number of tasks need to be undertaken, including maintaining accurate records of a plant’s provenance, collecting and preparing voucher specimens in a herbarium, reviewing the scientific literature and identifying and correctly naming the individual plant. Every plant in a collection essentially has three elements to its identity: first, its provenance (how it came into the collection, and from where); second, that the individual plant is correctly associated with the correct provenance information (there may be several accessions of the same taxon in a collection); and third, that it is correctly identified and named. The first element is supported by a (preferably electronic) record system; the second is evidenced through the use of an accession number and qualifier that identify the individual plant. The third element of identity is open to reinterpretation when, for example, a specimen reaches maturity and flowers for the first time, or through taxonomic or nomenclatural changes. The entire process involves a range of disciplines and techniques, from record-keeping, archiving, mapping, literature searching, taxonomy, labelling and herbarium techniques, and provides a student with the opportunity to experience the full compass of activities undertaken at a botanic garden.
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