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Digitizing and distributing specimen-based plant biodiversity data

Making plant biodiversity data widely available enables research and restoration of Midwestern landscapes and plant conservation efforts globally.


Herbaria--museums of dried plant, lichen, and fungal specimens--are time capsules of biodiversity. They are a persistent, tangible record of what has grown in an area, protected in museum cabinets for hundreds of years, far outlasting individual plant lifespans. The Arboretum's herbarium contains more than 182,000 vascular plant specimens from around the world, but its reach goes far beyond the walls of our herbarium cabinets. Online specimen data allow researchers to gather data on climatic tolerances of plants worldwide. They allow educators to bring specimen-based science into the classroom. They serve as a resource to conservation professionals and artists who need to understand how to recognize different plant species. Our herbarium is involved in a long-term effort to digitize and disseminate biodiversity data and images and to provide these to international data aggregators, accessible to scientists and landscape restorationists around the world. This work is ongoing and funded by IMLS, NSF, and internal funds. 

Funding sources

IMLS, NSF, CW, Newman Family Fund, The Morton Arboretum

Project status