When the Fletcher Wildlife Garden volunteers were invited to tour the National Vascular Plants Herbarium and the National Mycological Herbarium, I jumped at the chance!
An herbarium is a collection of dried plant specimens that have been mounted onto paper, or sometimes preserved in alcohol, labelled with pertinent information and collected for scientific study. Properly preserved, herbaria can last for hundreds of years. The oldest herbaria date back to the 1600's.
In Ottawa, the plant and mycological herbaria are housed in the William Saunders building, on the the Central Experimental Farm.
The researchers who work here do some really quite fascinating work. They collaborate with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify unknown plant specimens crossing the border, that may be invasive and are involved with issuing phyto-sanitary certificates to companies shipping foodstuffs and other plant based goods. They've also worked in the past with the RCMP in getting a conviction for growing marijuana by being able to identify the root of the plant. And our tour guide shared the story of when they assisted in a murder case where the victim was taken by car from a golf course to the forest and they were asked to identify the plant matter caught in the wheel rims of the car. They IDed over 50 species.
John Dearness collection.