By Nicole Tarnowsky

May 13 2019

Since its inception NYBG has focused on building an extensive and valuable herbarium collection, evidenced by the early leadership of Nathaniel Lord and Elizabeth Britton and their continuing legacy today. Throughout our long history the Herbarium has had a robust collecting program, adding anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 new specimens per year to our holdings. Milestones have always been important to us and as a relatively young institution in 1940, the Herbarium celebrated this growth by commemorating the 2 millionth specimen added to our collections. The program that day honored our herbarium and its instrinsic value to the Garden, to horticulture and to scientific research. The program also honored many of the NYBG botanists responsible for growing this great collection. These included Head Curator at the time Henry Gleason who collected the 2 millionth specimen of Clematis versicolor Small, as well as John Kunkel Small whose career at the Garden spanned 40 years and who first named this rare species in 1901.

The Brittons would be impressed to learn that today our herbarium collection is the largest in the western hemisphere, numbering 7.8 million specimens and still growing! We are still noting milestones as well, though these days in addition to our growing physical collections we are also celebrating our digital collections. We recently digitized our 4 millionth specimen. As we continue to grow and share these holdings with the online community, we look forward to new milestones achieved in the generations to come.

A Closer Look