Whilst it is great to have available on the internet images of pressed specimens in herbaria, when they are ONLY of low resolution, their value to CONFIRM identifications can be limited.
I appreciate when Institutions FIRST began to DIGITIZE specimens, it was only feasible to do this at a low-level of resolution.  But the situation has rapidly changed.
When the specimens concerned have been DETERMINED at leading herbaria such as Kew, they represent a particularly useful resource – though I advise members that OFTEN (for the specimens collected in the 19th Century which for a reason I do not understand, they seem to have digitized FIRST and NOT, those from recent decades) the nomenclature can be out-of-date – which contributes to confusion.
Quite often, when using ‘The Plant List’ there APPEAR to be no specimens digitized at Kew yet if one then searches using an out-of-date name, such specimens appear!
Unfortunately, even in the case of LARGE flowered species such as Gentiana nubigena, the images merely allow one to assess the HABIT of that species and sometimes the general appearance of floral parts and foliage.  OFTEN it is not possible to distinguish between closely-related species on the basis of inspection of such images – which REDUCES their value CONSIDERABLY
and compare with the images attached of close-ups digital images I took of this species (6 years ago) in the herbarium of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (which I have indicated holds the BEST set of pressed specimens covering the flora of the upper Kulu Valley & Lahaul plus some from Ladakh, ANYWHERE in the world – it is a SHAME that a duplicate set has LANGUISHED unutilised at the Urusvati Institute, Nagar, Kulu Valley, H.P. for more than 80 years).
These were of a collection made by Dr Walter Koelz on the Baralacha La in August 1933.  The specimens were named as Gentiana algida var. nubigena – now Gentiana nubigena.
If you also compare with the images of a herbarium specimen at an Indian Institute, see:
I realise these are not of the same species and of a smaller-flowered one but you cannot fail to appreciate the LIMITED use to which such low-resolution images can be put.   There is also the problem of a TYPICAL shortcoming of pressed specimens in Indian herbaria collected by Indian botanists in recent decades, particularly of smaller mountain plants i.e. often only a SINGLE specimen was gathered – whereas the OBJECTIVE is to FILL a herbarium sheet!  I shall post more about this on another occasion.
SO, PLEASE CAN ALL HERBARIA THAT DIGITISE PRESSED SPECIMENS (NO MATTER WHICH COUNTRY), DO SO AT HIGHER RESOLUTION – AS EDINBURGH BOTANICS ARE DOING; FOR SUCH IMAGES ONE CAN ZOOM IN (ALMOST TO THE LEVEL OF A TOP- LEVEL HAND LENS).  Such images are a BIG help when attempting to RELIABLY identify plants (i.e. arrive at a DETERMINATION).
I do realise that at herbaria such as Kew, there are MILLIONS of specimens and limited resources available for the task (funding for our botanical Institutions in England has significantly cut in recent decades) but they (and those in India) MUST understand the STRICTLY LIMITED USE to which low-resolution images can be put.
Of course low-resolution images may be better than NO images at all – something which applies to MOST botanical institutions in India.  It is long-overdue that this situation changed.


Yes I agree with this view of …
Images should be in higher resolution so that minor details of sepals, petals, venation etc may also be examined properly. Or at least high resolution images should be available at link given with low resolution image. 
This also requires good quality pressed specimens and making good quality specimens is always a test of patience and zeal.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.