Fwd: Botanical specimens collected in H.P. in 1930s: Splendid News : 1 post by 1 author. Attachments (1)
I have referred to the extensive set of pressed specimens collected by Dr Walter Koelz, University of Michigan and Thakur Rup Chand primarily in the upper Kulu Valley, Lahaul and Ladakh, in the 1930s for Nicholas Roerich’s ‘Urusvati’ Institute, Naggar near Manali.
I understand that “Urusvati means “Light of the Morning Star’ in Sanskrit but please correct me if this is not the case. I am no Sanskrit scholar.
It was a terrific waste of time, effort and expense that these good quality specimens had been languishing, untouched for 80+ years. Particularly, as a duplicate set, had been named by Dr R R Stewart, working as a Research Associate at the herbarium, Ann Arbor, University
of Michigan. Such a set of specimens would have been an IDEAL resource towards both ‘Flora of Himachal Pradesh Analysis’ Chowdhery & Wadhwa (1984) and ‘Flora of Lahaul-Spiti’ Aswal & Mehrotra (1999). Consultation of these specimens would have greatly improved both…
I had tried, unsuccessfully, on 3 occasions to gain access to assess the conditions of said specimens. Whilst botanical specimens which have been dried and pressed well can last and be of use for hundreds of years, there is always the risk of mould and insect infestation.
However, I came across an article in Russian (which my youngest son was able to get translated on-line).
Even if you are unable to readily get a translation, the article has photos of the Institute and quite a number of plants (with Latin names).
The translation I have says: ‘Studying botanical component of natural science of the Roerich family’ by Shaky (Senior Researcher) and Potapov (Scientific Secretary of the Council of Russian botanical gardens, Federal State Institution of Science, Tsitsin, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.
It seems, the specimens had been professionally dried and, perhaps surprisingly, the vast majority of the herbarium has survived in good condition. In fact, only 2 sheets had been so badly damaged by insects as to require removal.
The article was put on-line at the end of 2012. I do not know what, if anything, has happened since? I have a good deal of additional information and can answer most of the questions the authors of the article had. I shall endeavour to get in touch and see how I might be able to help.
According to the article, most specimens did not (which is strange as accompanying field notes, on standard recording sheets, were prepared for each specimen) have information as to date of collection, location, altitude, surrounding vegetation – which as I regularly comment, is such an important part of a botanical collection. Such sheets containing this information made it to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a DUPLICATE set of specimens were sent. The ORGINAL set being deposited in the Urusvati Museum.
See attached image of a sheet of field notes (in this case Koelz 48 which was Primula rosea) at the Ann Arbor Herbarium, University of Michigan. As one can see this seems to be a CARBON copy. The ORGINIAL (top) COPY would have been with the set of specimens deposited at the Urusvati Institute. The notes say, ” Kulu, Chanderkhani (which is a pass above Naggar), 12,000′, open slopes, 6″, bright rose – no odour, first flower to appear on slopes, often as snow retreats, June 1930″. This was one of the very first specimens collected by Koelz after he arrived from the US, having been hired by Roerich.
There are photos of herbarium specimens of Morina coulteriana and Eremurus himalaicus.
I shall keep members informed of any developments. Clearly, now it is clear this valuable resource (as I have already stated, the BEST set of pressed specimens I know from the region in any herbarium anywhere in the world) exists in good condition, SURELY it is not going to continue to, largely go to waste, for a further 80 years?
In the mean-time, if any members of this group know these Russian scientists and have current e-mails, kindly contact me. Unfortunately,
I cannot read nor write Russian. It would be useful to know if they, on the other hand, can communicate in English?