Salix loan to Japan

By Amy Weiss

Jul 30 2019

Botany is a collaborative science that relies on sharing data and specimens with colleagues around the world. That's true even during conflicts, like World War II.

Prior to the start of WWII, the New York Botanical Garden had several loans of herbarium specimens out to countries that would become large players in the War, like Germany and Japan. Several herbaria were partially destroyed during the war, like the Botanical Garden and Museum at Berlin-Dahlem; or totally destroyed, like the Philippine National Museum in Manila. After the war, the cooperative nature of botany had scientists worldwide sending specimens and books to help rebuild these herbarium collections (Schultes, 1957; Hiepko, 1987).   

After WWII, the Garden tried to assess what might have been lost by reaching out to researchers who still had specimens out on loan. One such loan, sent in 1937, was to Arika Kimura who was studying Salix (willows) at Tohoku University in Japan. In Kimura's 1947 letter above, he lets us know that the Garden's specimens, and Kimura himself, were okay. Despite Kimura's hopes in sending the specimens back when mail service resumed, the loan was not returned until after Kimura's death in 1996. Most of the Salix specimens were returned to the Garden in 1997, with a final seven sheets not being found and returned until 2006 — 69 years after they were first sent!

A Closer Look


Hiepko, P. 1987. The collections of the Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem (B) and their history. Englera 7: 219-252.

Schultes, R. E. 1957. Elmer Drew Merrill – an appreciation. Taxon 6: 89–101.