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Plant collecting is the acquisition of plant specimens for the purposes of research, cultivation or as a hobby. Plant specimens may be kept alive, but are more commonly dried and pressed to preserve the quality of the specimen. Plant collecting is an ancient practice with records of Chinese botanist collecting roses over 5000 years ago.
Herbariums are collections of preserved plants samples and their associated data for scientific purposes. The largest Herbarium in the world exist at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, in Paris, France. Plant samples in herbaria typically include a reference sheet with information about the plant and details of collection. This detailed and organized system of filing provides horticulturist and other researchers alike with a way to find information about a certain plant, and a way to add new information to an existing plant sample file.Collection of live specimens
The collection of live plant specimens from the wild, sometimes referred to as plant hunting, is an activity that has occurred for centuries. The earliest recorded evidence of plant hunting was in 1495 BC when botanists were sent to Somalia to collect incense trees for Queen Hatshepsut. The Victorian era saw a surge in plant hunting activity as botanical adventurers explored the world to find exotic plants to bring home, often at considerable personal risk. These plants usually ended up in botanical gardens or the private gardens of wealthy collectors. Prolific plant hunters in this period included William Lobb and his brother Thomas Lobb, George Forrest, Joseph Hooker, Charles Maries and Robert Fortune.
Proper pressing and mounting techniques are critical to the longevity of a collected plant sample. Properly preserved plant samples can last for hundreds of years. The New York Botanical Garden itself holds plant samples that date back to the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–1806.
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