Herbarium’s team looks out for new and disappearing species

From www.straitstimes.com | July 10, 2015

Singapore Botanic Gardens was made a Unesco World Heritage Site last week, becoming just one of three gardens in the world, and the only one in Asia, to earn that honour. The Straits Times speaks to the passionate men and women helming plant research there.

Displayed in the Botanic Gardens’ herbarium is a sprig of jasmine that has been preserved for more than 200 years.

Collected by missionaries in India in the year 1790, the plant was brought to Singapore and donated to the Gardens around 1879. While the dried specimen might not be much to look at, it is one reason Singapore has been feted as a leading centre of tropical plant research.

After the Gardens was founded in 1859, its herbarium was set up in 1875 to collect, document and preserve plants in the region.

It has amassed a vast collection of about 750,000 dried plant specimens and 15,000 plant samples preserved in alcohol, making it a crucial stop for botanists seeking to understand South-east Asia’s flora.

Dr David Middleton, 51, the herbarium’s keeper, said of its roots: “When it was founded, it was the main herbarium for Malaya.”

He added: “Even after Singa- pore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, all of the collections remained here in Singapore.”

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Source: Herbarium’s team looks out for new and disappearing species , Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

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