Herbaria are plant museums comprising collections of dried mounted plant specimens crucial for education, research, and conservation purposes. They provide a permanent record of plant diversity found in a particular area over time. An understanding of geographic coverage and history of collection of specimens in a herbarium is important for future planning and growth of a herbarium. The purpose of this study was to understand the county-level distribution and chronology of collection of plant specimens housed in Harvill-Stevens Herbarium at Longwood. Harvill-Stevens Herbarium is the largest collection of Virginia native plants the second largest herbarium in the state consisting of over 75,000 specimens. A record of the geographic origin of these plants will help researchers understand a change in the distribution of plant species over time. Location and collection dates were obtained by examining a total of 500 herbarium sheets. In addition, other interesting information such as the date of collection and conservation status was also collected, when possible. Based on the 500 specimens studied, the collection seems to represent an overall even distribution of specimens across the counties of Virginia, with some hotspots in more populated areas. In terms of time of collection, most of the specimens were collected in the 1970s and 1980s. Overall, this research has helped us better understand the geographic distribution and chronology of the collection of plant specimens in the Harvill-Stevens Herbarium. This study was limited to only 500 out of 75,000+ specimens housed in the herbarium given a time constraint. Work is in progress to study the entire collection as well as a detailed study of the conservation status of specimens in the herbarium.
Bechtle, Ross, "Geographic Distribution and History of Plant Specimens at Longwood University Harvill-Stevens Herbarium" (2021). Fall Showcase for Research and Creative Inquiry. 152.