VBA welcomes and encourages new records. Following a well established tradition, new records must be vouchered by physical specimens, pressed and dried, and deposited in a herbarium. Sight records are not sufficient and photographic vouchers are discouraged except in cases of very rare and local species. Herbarium specimens are necessary to be able to go back to original material in cases of changes in taxonomy. Here are a few guidelines for collecting herbarium specimens.
Most herbarium sheets are 11.5” x 16.5”, so larger samples must be folded or trimmed accordingly. The specimen should be sufficient to be confidently identified, which normally means having flowers and/or fruits. Taxonomically important (diagnostic) characters will vary from group to group and usually includes roots, but this may at times be impractical or a conservation concern. The specimen should be properly labeled. “Properly labeled” means the label should specify the county, locality (usually a distance and direction from some named place that someone could find on a map), habitat, date of collection, and collector’s name and collection number (if used). GPS coordinates have become commonplace for georeferencing, but this should not be a substitute for a good, narrative style, locality description. If someone other than the collector identified the specimen, his or her name should be indicated. Most labels are small (3.5 x 5 in. maximum) and printed on archival paper. This could be some trouble for those who don’t collect and label specimens routinely, so individual herbaria may be willing to print one or a few labels for you if provided with the collection data.
Non-native species are just as important to document as native ones, but only naturally occurring non-natives are mapped. To be considered a new record, a species would need to have gotten where it is naturally rather than being planted or seeded, and would need to be established and reproducing on its own. These factors can sometime be difficult to assess, so the best time to do that is when you’re there in the field.
Most herbaria prefer to mount their own specimens, usually received in a folded sheet of newsprint with the label tucked in. Some specimens can withstand a certain amount of bending without damage, but other will require more rigid packing. One or a few specimens can usually be bundled with a couple of standard plant press corrugates (or whatever size will protect the specimens) on either side. Personnel at the herbarium of your choice will usually confirm your determination only if requested, but are happy to do so. If deposited elsewhere, please ask the local curator to relay new records to VBA for inclusion in the Digital Atlas. Happy collecting!