Damaged by enemy action

By Amy Weiss

Mar 1 2019

Herbarium specimens are windows into the past and can help us answer questions like where a plant species has grown, or where a botanist has collected. This specimen gives us a glimpse into a different kind of history; it survived a bombing during World War Two.  

Botany is a collaborative science, and specimens are often sent as exchange to other herbaria around the world. Before coming to the herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden, this specimen used to reside at the British Museum (now the Natural History Museum, London). It is annotated with a small label which reads, "Sheet damaged by enemy action on 10 September, 1940."  

The British Museum was hit a number of times during WW2, but on this date the east wing containing the botany department was hit and many herbarium specimens were destroyed in the resulting fire. Luckily this specimen survived to give us a peek into the past.

More about: Historical specimens


Krupnick, G. (2017). Are pressed plants windows into world history? [Blog post]. Retrieved 1 March 2019, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-of-natural-history/2017/05/19/are-pressed-plants-windows-world-history/ 

Lotzof, K., & Davis, J. (2018). The Museum at wartime. Natural History Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2019, from http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/the-museum-during-wartime.html