Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle
January 1, 2010 8:34 AM   Subscribe

The largest Herbarium in the world.
posted by hadjiboy (4 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I want to go to-oh wait, I am!
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 AM on January 1, 2010

The museum's website.
posted by netbros at 9:21 AM on January 1, 2010

Whelk, go now and run, don't walk. It's fantastic. I can imagine the gardens surrounding the museum would be nicer in the spring and summer, but you can't go wrong regardless.
posted by The Michael The at 10:52 AM on January 1, 2010

I used to work in a herbarium so I can't quite get excited about *seeing* one. However, Herbaria around the world are endangered as people forget how useful they are, so I'm glad this one is now well-funded.

Why are they useful? Well, I used to study an organism that was identified in the US in 1904 and every specimen ever placed in a herbarium was labeled with that name. In the 60's, someone discovered a new morphological feature that allowed people to realize that there were actually two different organisms. In some regions of the world, one predominated; in others, the other. My organism turned out to be the second organism, not the one discovered in 1904. But did it displace the first organism? A molecular biologist might try to test this by looking at the population genetics of the organism today to figure out what it was doing in 1904. But I just went to the herbarium and looked. Turns out the person who made the original identification was wrong.

A molecular biologist doesn't have to take my word for it: he could extract the DNA from herbarium specimens and check it out. Herbaria are priceless. They must be protected.
posted by acrasis at 1:49 PM on January 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

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