[University of Florida Herbarium] [Florida Museum of Natural History]


by Kent D. Perkins

Introduction The Annotation Slip The Information Examples Type Specimens Placement/Attachment


The value of herbarium specimens are improved by careful annotation. Annotations bring the scientific names of specimens up-to-date to conform with current species concepts. This helps herbaria organize their collections and they are an integral part of curatorial management. Annotations also document the use of specimens in research studies. This cross-referencing is integral to the scientific method and is important for future researchers.

Annotation is the courtesy expected by the lending institution for the cost of processing and mailing loans and the wear and tear on the specimens. This conforms to a long-standing tradition (Report of the committee for recommendations in desirable procedures in herbarium practice, II. Brittonia 25: 307-310. 1973).

The Annotation Slip

An annotation slip should be composed of archival paper (acid-free). All marks are to be typewritten or be made in permanent ink. Ballpoint pen and felt tip pen are not to be used as they are not permanent. Pencil is permanent, but erasable. Some institutions allow pencil to be used and others do not. Slips are usually approximately 1" X 4", but may be larger or smaller depending on the information included. It is best to economize on space since herbarium sheets have limited free space. The following are recommended settings for a word processing document:

As a general rule, annotations should not be written directly on herbarium sheets and NEVER written on other annotations or the original label. In rare cases, institutional staff pencil on annotations to reflect synonymic name changes. Borrowed specimens should always be annotated with added slips (see placement and attachment below).

The Information

Scientific Name Updates and Verification

Rhododendron canescens (Michx.) Sweet
det. Kathleen A. Kron, FLAS22 May 1998
Examined for a Revision of Rhododendron sect. Pentanthera

The annotation slip should usually include the following information:

Numerous other types of information may be included on annotation slips, such as:

* If the annotation is being generated for curatorial management to reflect a name changed based on synonymy and the person making the change is not actually identifying the specimen, an equal sign should be placed in front of the name.

= Rotheca myricoides (Hochstetter)Steane & Mabberley
S. Barry Davis (FLAS)18 Aug 2006
Strobilanthes auriculata Nees var. dyeriana (Mast.) J.R.I. Wood
See: J.R.I. Wood and R.W. Scotland (2003). The 2-Lipped Species of Strobilanthes (Acanthaceae). Kew Bulletin 58(1): 92.
Marc S. Frank (FLAS)10 August 2016

When a researcher completely agrees with the previous scientific name on a specimen an exclamation point, "stet" or "teste" are sometimes used in place of the name. This shorthand method is useful when a researcher is examining large numbers of specimens. It can create confusion when not placed next to the previous identification, where there are already multiple annotations on the sheet, or the original name is not particularly clear. Given that annotations may be generated via computer fairly efficiently, this practice is discouraged.

! John Q. Public, 2013

Documenting Specimen Use in Research Studies

Even when updated taxonomic information is not provided, specimens should be annotated to document use for a special procedure (e.g., destructive analysis) and in projects.

Small portion of specimen removed for DNA analysis for Master's Thesis: Phylogenetic analysis of the Kielmeyeroideae (Clusiaceae).
Christine Notis, FLASMay 2002
Leaf removed for cuticle analysis.
Friederike Wagner1 March 2002
Laboratory of Palaeobotany and Palynology Utrecht, The Netherlands
Small portion of leaf material removed for DNA analysis for project: Phylogeny of the genus Paspalum (Poaceae).
Pablo R. Speranza2 Jul 2004
Fragment removed for phytolith analysis.
Date: July 13, 2004D.M. Jarzen
Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL. Palynology Collection.
Specimen used for the development of the "Key to the Species of Ericaceae in the PLANTS Floristic Area" for the USDA PLANTS database and website.
Walter S. Judd and Marc S. Frank (FLAS)2009

Type Specimens

Type specimen annotations require more detail than most other annotations. Guidelines for annotating type specimens may be found in Annotation of Type Specimens: Recommendations.

Placement and Attachment

Herbaria may have certain preferences as to how and where annotations are attached to specimens. The policies in this connection may be conveyed when visiting an institution or with paperwork accompanying a loan. For example, Geneva (G) wants slips to be pinned on and Stockholm (S) has specific positioning preferences.

Standard practice is to place annotations in a blank space as near to the original label as possible. This is usually to one side or above the label and flush with the right side of the sheet. If other annotations are present, it is best to position the new one above the most recent, unless it will not fit or the most recent is in a very unusual position. When there is not sufficient blank space, an annotation may be glued only at one end and overlap mounted plant material.

Please note that some lending institutions do not wish for annotation slips to be affixed (Geneva (G), for example). Consult the rules of the lending herbaria for information in regards to this or follow the practice that seems to be consistent with the specimens borrowed from each institution.

Annotations are usually attached with an archival, pH-neutral glue. Institutions may specify which glue to use and not to use. Polyvinyl acetate white glue, DucoCement and methyl cellulose glues are typically acceptable. The archival qualities of glue sticks are debated. Rubber cement should not be used since it is not permanent. Glue should be applied only to each or one end of the annotation. This will allow you to pull off the slip if a mistake is made.

[University of Florida Herbarium]
University of Florida Herbarium collections:
Vascular Plants | Herbarium Library
Bryophyte and Lichens | Mycological
Wood | Paleobotany (affiliated collection)
[Florida Museum of Natural History]

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Last content update: 20 June 2013
Edited by: Kent D. Perkins, e-mail: kperkins[at]flmnh.ufl.edu
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