Pitchandikulam Forest Virtual Herbarium : 16 posts by 5 authors.
We would like to share with you our new virtual herbarium, an online catalogue of plants from our region, including local, vulnerable and sometimes endangered species from the native evergreen forests of the Coromandel Coast of Tamil Nadu, as well as other widespread species of the Indian subcontinent.
Unlike many other virtual herbaria, which use pictures of their existing collections, samples of which can be decades old, often discoloured and degraded, Pitchandikulam Forest Virtual Herbarium uses fresh specimens, briefly flattened and then scanned immediately in high definition, in order to conserve their natural colours and texture. This creates exquisite, vivid images which allow us to fully appreciate the intricate beauty of plants and to discover them more intimately.
For each species, detailed botanical information is provided, including nomenclature, description, phenology, reproduction and dispersal, as well details of plant ecology, distribution, conservation status and propagation and planting advice.
In addition to the detailed scientific data, it offers additional ethnobotanical information (human uses of plants for food, crafts, medicines or rituals…).
Pitchandikulam Forest Virtual Herbarium is a work in progress. So far 50 plant species are available to view and learn about, with new species added continuously.
If you are interested, we encourage you to join our mailing list to get the latest updates.
Pitchandikulam Forest Virtual Herbarium can be found here: www.pitchandikulam-herbarium.org
Thanks, … Certainly a appreciable beginning.
Hope you go along way to enchant us.


Thank you very much for this great endeavour using latest techniques which will certainly be helpful for the purpose of documentation and identification.
However, I do not agree with the following comments:
“Unlike many other virtual herbaria, which use pictures of their existing collections, samples of which can be decades old, often discoloured and degraded…..”
Yes, samples may not  only be decades old, but may also be centuries old and the major herbaria of the World are conserving these specimens with meticulous care as they form the base of angiosperm taxonomy.  A herbarium specimens is bound to be degraded and discoloured with age and that is why a professional collector notes down various field data including habit and habitat and features such as colour of  various parts in fresh condition which are likely to be lost on return from field. The same is then noted down on the herbarium label.  With limited available techniques, the taxonomists of the past did wonders.
 There is nothing wrong in digitizing these precious collections and presenting virtual herbaria. 
Nothing more for the present.


Sorry but I had not and I will never criticize the work did and done today in the herbaria. Herbarium specimens are for me the jewels of the botany.


What i saw inspires me.I think its wonderful effort and may be very useful for the future for it would show  the real colors of the specimen.

I see you have included a scale but that must also have the millimeters showing not just white and black blocks. I am sure the american suppliers of herbarium maintenance supplies can/must have them.
I am glad you have the color chart in the each of the pictures i perused.
But I have the following  concerns and comments that must be addressed if this is  to be of use.. real use…

1: the specimen scanned must also be preserved in the true herbarium style and procedure including whatever newer techniques botanists employ to make their herbarium.   For posterity, like any other classical herbaria around the world and in Botanical survey of India.
2: those herbarium sheets should be  also digitized where the dates log numbers etc are clearly showing so that they can be easily traced and accessed later by the researchers, yourselves and outside world easily.  And they must be stored separately .
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When I googled for your organization i found this page :
http://www.pitchandikulamforest.org/cms/content/view/99/227/
which says your organization has publications, but the links provided only takes me to the two journals’ home pages,,,,, how is one  to determine which are your papers… let alone access them???
i suggest you make a list like a bibliography that shows up in any scientists’ resume and list it there in that page i just mentioned  and send us … all members  of efloraindia/indiatreepix have been sending in their list of publication with full citation or bibliography.  That will really be nice.
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I also am encouraged by this endeavor:
http://www.pitchandikulamforest.org/cms/content/view/95/218/
my question…
is your work (with this herbarium project) related to this work… since 1973 ???


i have one more  question
what are you using for the scanning and how are you achieving the 3D effect
how do you preserve the 3 D integrity of specimen esp flowers and fruits without squashing them flat while scanning
if you will tell me /us with good details it would help me/us tremendously.
thank you for your help.


I think Nicolas was right when he said virtual herbaria that we see on the net are often darker/ discolored// which is true

and that’s the nature of the thing… its older specimen which do get dried up and oxidized ( and many other reactions and damages occur)…

the virtual herbaria are made so that the structure can still be seen centuries later ( if humanity will have the same technology available centuries later )

but the digital herbaria are very useful for the far flung humanity to compare their current collection with what has been already classified by authorities such as at the Kew  or MOBot or at NYBG etc …

AND … is absolutely correct that those herbarium specimen are a priceless resource, digitization and presenting the sheets to the world though does not reduce  its/their  importance one iota. The real speciemn herbarium is a repository, the motherload, and the digitized herbarium an adjunct.

I want to add that the older the better…  because we can compare the DNA /RNA changes that may  be induced /found in newer specimen can be easily studied by studying the new with the old… for that very minimum amount of specimen can be used…
also if herbaria from different localities are compared … regional changes can also be studied and documented  … and we can get ideas about local climate, soil conditions fertilizers and weed killer effects and insecticidal spray effects etc  and if herbaria from across the timeline of history are  compared (ie modern herbarium specimen with  those older specimen)  when such climactic change or chemical intrusion was not so prevalent very interesting and important data can be had.

FOR ME: THIS SCANNING OF FRESH SPECIMEN ADDS ONE MORE FACET TO A LONG TIME HONORED TRADITION OF ENDEAVOR OF BOTANISTS TO PRESERVE SPECIMEN FOR CLASSIFICATION,  AND FUTURE REFERENCE AND STUDY. 

No one should claim that their new method is superior…. newer methods are a welcome addition, an adjunct, however colorful they look… .  just like in any science…  an addition only…  just  as our own digital photographs  many of which way way superior and very welcome addition to that same endeavor of collecting and preserving specimen. 

In time honored journalism tradition to balance a review, i must also say that many herbarium specimen sheets  may individually not be up to par, but neither are many academic papers and the digital photographs we see here  and other internet sites are often fuzzy, out of focus, incomplete, single and without any data about collection site and pertinent information of habit and habitat. To me such submissions are only of partial use or often just to be relegated to junk.

But overall the superior quality (( of specimen be they real living ones, digital photographs (like we have here),  herbarium sheets or their digitized images or digital herbarium by scanning live specimen right away after collecting ))   of specimen makes life in science worthwhile and helps forget the throw away stuff or relegate them to sidelines..

In summary, this fresh specimen scanning in style of herbarium sheets is a welcome addition to the study of plants.

I hope Nicolas will keep sending us his fresh specimen scanning pictures just like our other members do send in identified specimen.
Nicolas there is not  a per day limit to sending in already identified specimen.


Thank you for your comments.
We use a high resolution A4 flatbed scanner to do the digitalization work.
About your question about the scientific papers of Pitchandikulam organization, I am not in charge of the Pitchandikulam Forest “old” website…
I am a French botanist and with my wife Irène (graphic developer and web designer) we settled in Tamil Nadu 1.5 year ago. We are only in charge of this virtual herbarium which we launched last year…


Are you associated with the Auroville Herbarium?


A4 is the paper size used in india
my question was ,more specific brand model etc
i was expecting a detailed information about your scanner and process for preserving the 3d structure while scanning
if cant shre the details please say so
no problem


I am really fascinated to see these and other images on your website.
Ideally an image to be called a herbarium specimen, it needs to be in the size of A3.
I noticed that none of your specimens have a number (voucher number).
Secondly, I would suggest you to try a black background. Just spread your specimens on the scanner and scan removing the upper cover. The image will have a black background but smaller flowers really look very nice. You can still put the lid back and scan with white background.
Please also remember, if someday you need to describe a new species, then you need a proper specimen and not the digital one. So also remember to keep the sheet with dry plant always in your collection for reference.
Most of the real herbaria have old specimens that dates back to 300 years sometimes. They have their own importance and your work has its own, so just keep going. 
Best of luck.
If you need any help from me, please feel free to write to me here or privately.


For molecular studies the herbarium specimens are not eligible as these are poisoned.  Sometimes back someone requested me to send fresh leaf samples  of Nicobariodendron sleumeri, tentatively placed under Celastraceae, for molecular studies to solve the problem whether it really belongs to the Celastraceae or a new family should be proposed.  Thus if Nicolas ji  can find out  some way of preserving his materials without poisoning, it is quite good but at the same time he should adhere  to the valuable  suggestions given by …


poisoned by what ? mercury or something else?
i thought some pieces of leaves are routinely taken for biochemical and molecular analysis from herbarium specimen. am i wrong?


Plant specimens were not taken for dna analysis earlier. But now a days they are.

The main thing about DNA analysis is, it is best done from fresh samples or a sample which were dried without rotting (very fast drying). Hence we use silica gel for fast drying. As the samples on herbarium sheet or even in the silica gets older the chances of DNA extraction becomes less as the dna starts degenrating.
Poison can be anything from mercury chloride or even alcohol. Infact at our organisation we dont use any chemicals to kill.but still we are not able to extract DNA !!


Thanks …

I had read it (a few repeatedly) in some reviews or papers about the molecular exams from old specimen

I have also seen (i was present when at …..  herbarium)   some visiting scientists were snipping small/minute leaf  pieces from herbarium dried leaf etc for exams)
could not have been for enzyme essays!
ps silica gel is how i dry my flowers for flower arranging for fall and winter.
would drying in microwave oven preserve the dna/r na structure?/ i have not thought about it.. is there any data out there?


They say that microwave degerates the DNA and even protiens !! But havent seen any literature on it.

Good thing to experiment… 


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