Herbarium grows with grant

(PHOTOS/Brady Talbert)

All the samples are stored in large cabinets, but soon Troy will have better storage equipment. All the samples are pressed with notes. 

Brady Talbert 

Staff Writer

The collection of over 48,000 plants located in Troy’s herbarium will soon expand, as the facility plans on doubling its capacity after receiving a more than $195,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Associate professor of biology Alvin Diamond and professor of biology Michael Woods both oversee the herbarium.

“It’s kind of like a cross between a museum and a library,” Diamond said. “We have plants that have been collected from all around the world that have been pressed and dried.”

The grant will allow the facility to receive shelving that can expand at the push of a button, further utilizing the space available to store more plants. The herbarium currently has 36 cabinets, but Woods said that number will soon be 72. 

“Hopefully this will allow us to grow for the next 25 years based on our current growth rate,” Woods said. 

While discussing the expansion, Diamond gestured to a stack of boxes located in a room across the hall from the herbarium. 

“All of these boxes that are located here behind me are specimens that have been prepared, and they’re just waiting to be added to the collection,” Diamond said. 

Row after row of cabinets are filled with plant matter; 80% of which was taken from the wiregrass area. 

The remaining 20% includes specimens from other countries such as China and Taiwan. Some plants date back hundreds of years, allowing researchers to examine how plants have changed over time. 

Woods pointed at the label of one of the plants pulled from a file folder. 

“This is an example of one of our older specimens,” Woods said. “We have several from the 1800s; this particular one was collected in 1923, and it has all the information that we need.”

This is information that students and researchers can use to study topics such as climate change. 

“Our specimens are available for researchers anywhere,” Diamond said. 

One student from another university visited the campus to examine the flower blooms of plants collected over the years. 

“They were looking at how climate change was affecting the flowering time of plants; and as it’s getting warmer sooner, plants are blooming earlier in the year,” Diamond said. 

Those interested in the herbarium can visit the Alabama Plant Atlas website at floraofalabama.org for a closer look at what’s inside. The herbarium is located in McCall Hall MSCX.

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