The University of Florida Herbarium is a museum collection of historic importance with specimens dating back into the mid-1800’s. Collection access is managed to preserve the fragile specimens and the integrity of the collection.
The Museum recognizes that a collection of this nature would serve little purpose if there were no use of the material whatsoever. Our guidelines balance collection use and conservation.
Arranging a Visit
Visitors wishing to use a collection are requested to contact a designated staff member of the appropriate collection in order to arrange a visit. This will allow us to schedule the visit, have staff available to assist, and make sure the collection will be available for use so that the goals of the visitor may be accomplished. Contact and location information is available on each of the collection pages.
Please see our Plan Your Visit page for hours, directions and parking information.
- Experienced researchers in plant taxonomy* conducting projects specifically related to plant systematics are encouraged to use the collection. Such researchers must initially meet with the Collection Manager or a designated staff member for a collection orientation and permission to use the collection. It must be understood that there are responsibilities associated with the privilege to use the collection.
- Collection use activity should be reported either on available collection use log forms or via an email with collection-related project titles to the Collection Manager. This information is used for activity reports.
* Students must have completed a course in plant taxonomy.
- Individuals not doing specific research work in plant taxonomy and wishing to take information from herbarium specimens will be allowed to do so under the supervision and assistance of the herbarium staff. Such persons should make an appointment with an authorized herbarium staff member for supervised research. A reasonable number of specimens will be pulled from the collection by the staff member for the individual to examine. Requests for supervised use of the collection will be evaluated on an individual basis. University of Florida Faculty and Staff and those agencies with which the Herbarium has service responsibilities have first priority. The Herbarium reserves the right to charge fees for exceptional service.
- Persons with a casual interest in plants and students in courses such as Local Flora who want to learn species and families are encouraged to use our library, synoptic collection and digital imaging resources. The synoptic collection, located in our library, includes flowering and fruiting samples of common Florida species.
- Visitors to The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Dickinson Hall facility are required to first check in at the reception desk in the lobby. A temporary visitor badge will be issued by the lobby receptionist. This badge should be returned at the conclusion of the visit.
- Herbarium collection and library visitors should also check in at the herbarium front office, 379 Dickinson Hall, and sign our guest register.
- Food or drink is not allowed inside the collections or library area.
- Please secure backpacks in the lockers provided in the herbarium front office or, by arrangement, in a staff member’s office.
- The Herbarium Library is available for consultation during normal office hours subject to staff availability. An appointment is not necessary but phoning ahead to make sure we are open is advisable. Library materials are not checked out. Photocopying services are available on a cash reimbursement basis.
Food and Beverages
- Food and beverages are restricted to one area in the corner of the library room.
Incoming Specimen Pest Control Policy
All specimens arriving to the herbarium must be decontaminated to reduce the possibility of introducing insect pests. Typically, incoming material is frozen for 7-14 days and then stored in insect-proof herbarium cabinets. Alternatively, material may be fumigated at the University of Florida Pest Control facility (this usually takes only a day or two). Contact the herbarium staff to make arrangements. Please note, if you plan to be here for only a few days, then you must mail your specimens to be frozen in advance of your visit. See our Pest Control and Fumigation Policy for more information.
Accessioned vascular plant collections are stored in our compactor room (385E). There are additional acquired herbaria collections (Angus K. Gholson; Rollins College; White Oak Plantation), mostly not accessioned, stored in other areas. Accessioned bryophyte and lichen collections are stored in room 385.
- Check open aisles for obstructions (open cabinet doors, step stools, carts and people) before moving compactor rows. There are no safety mechanisms. In turn, please keep aisles clear and doors closed when not actively working in a cabinet.
- Please move only one compactor row at a time.
Specimen Arrangement and Filing
- The vascular plant collection arrangement document, family numbering codes used in the collection (alphabetical / numerical) and Cabinet Door Lists (a lengthy PDF listing the contents of the entire collection) are available on our Web site, as print documents from the herbarium staff and are posted in the collection.
- Misfiled specimens are essentially lost. If there is any question about the positioning of material, it should be left out for the herbarium staff to refile.
- Please keep herbarium cabinet doors closed as much as possible. Be sure to shut them when you take folders to a table to examine specimens.
- All material examined is to be returned to an insect-free cabinet the same day. Material should not be left out unattended as this increases the likelihood of damage from a number of potential hazards such as insects, leaks and accidents.
- Specimens may not be stored apart from the collection without authorization, i.e. for use in projects in other areas of the herbarium. Specimen withdrawl tags are placed in the collection to indicate this long term use
- Specimens may not be removed from the herbarium premises without proper loan authorization and forms. Loans are processed in accordance with our Specimen Loan Policies. Visitors, after consultation with herbarium staff, may select specimens for loan. Specimens generally need repair before they are loaned. It is likely they will be shipped later. A formal request for the loan must be received from the administrator of your herbarium before material will be sent.
Specimen Handling Guidelines
Herbarium specimens are fragile and most are irreplaceable. Please handle them with care. Some specimens were obtained by collectors who hiked and camped for days in remote areas. Some may represent rare plants with only a few specimens in existence.
★ Specimens should be stored in herbarium cabinets, unless you are actively working with them. Never leave them out over night or unattended for long periods.
★ Herbarium cabinet doors should be securely closed unless you are in front of the cabinet retrieving or viewing specimens.
Handling of Mounted Herbarium Sheets
- Keep mounted sheets face (plant side) up.
- Take care not to bend, break or tear the specimens. Watch for plant parts near the edge of sheets.
- Support loose sheets with cardboard flats when carrying.
- Loose plant pieces known to have detached from a particular sheet are to be placed in the associated fragment packet. Unattached parts not clearly associated with a given specimen, including fruits, flowers, etc., should not be placed in the associated fragment packet. If the sheet has no packet, it should be pulled for repair.
Square up specimen stacks so that they are even. Uneven sheets tend to get bent and plant parts are broken off.
- Specimens in need of repair should be given to the Collection Manager or placed in a designated place.
- Evidence of insect damage is to be reported to the Collection Manager at once. Such specimens may have loose dust-like particles on them and/or plant parts that are frayed or missing.
- DO NOT REMOVE SPECIMENS FROM THE COLLECTION WITHOUT CONSULTING THE COLLECTION MANAGER.
Removal of Material from Specimens (destructive sampling)
- Removal of samples (e.g., pollen, leaf or seed) from specimens may only be done with prior permission of the Keeper or Collection Manager. Removal of material is governed by our Destructive Analysis Policy Statement and Contract. We have designed destructive analysis procedures to help make this an efficient process for both the collection user and herbarium staff.
Photography of Specimens
If you wish to photograph specimens, please review our photograph agreement. If the photos you take are only snapshot style for research purposes, you do not need to sign the agreement. If you plan to publish the images, please sign the agreement. Specimens may not be turned upside down for photocoping, such as for label data.
Collection users are encouraged to annotate specimens whenever a determination may be improved and to document the use of the specimen in a project. Visitors are expected to bring their own preprepared annotation slips.
- Permanent ink and archival (acid-free) paper should be used for annotations. Ballpoint pen and felt tip pen are not to be used, as they are not permanent and the ink diffuses with time.
- Annotations should be small and legible. Annotations are typically no larger than approximately 1″ X 4″, but may be larger or smaller depending on the information included, and should bear, at least, the name of the taxon (including the authority), the name of the investigator and the date (at least the year) of the identification. In rare cases, and with staff permission, annotations may be directly written on the sheet.
- Never write on, alter or obscure the specimen label or other annotations on the sheet.
- Annotated specimens should be given to a herbarium staff member or placed in a designated location for update of our database.
- Specimens that are utilized as major components and/or as vouchers for major studies destined for publication, should be annotated to reflect their use, even when the plant names are not updated.
- Detailed guidelines for annotation of specimens are provided in two documents on the University of Florida Herbarium Web site:
Annotation of Herbarium Specimens: Recommendations
Annotation of Type Specimens: Recommendations
Unmounted Herbarium Specimens
- Unmounted specimens are typically pressed in newspapers. All stacks of such specimens should be stored on cardboard flats and each stack should be clearly marked as to the contents.
- It is highly recommended that all newspapers bear some identifying information about the specimen such as collector and collection number. Misleading information should be marked off of the newspaper. Markings should be made near the bottom edge of the specimen.
- The newspapers or other materials these specimens are stored in may be acidic. Care should be taken to keep these specimens separate from archival, mounted specimens.
- Unmounted specimens may have many loose pieces and labels, so they should be handled carefully. If necessary, they should be secured in additional newspapers. Also, since loose items may still fall out, unmounted specimens should never be stored above mounted herbarium specimens.
- Seeds and other loose parts should be secured in packets and marked with identifying information.
No specimens may be removed from the herbarium collection without proper loan authorization and forms. Loans are made in accordance with the University of Florida Herbarium loan policies. Visitors, after consultation with herbarium staff, may select specimens for loan. Specimens generally need repair before they are loaned and it is likely they will be shipped later. A formal written request for the loan must be received from the administrator of your herbarium before the material will be sent.
- Researchers should consult with the Curator or Collection Manager before writing the use of the Herbarium or its staff in grants. General guidelines are provided in Estimated Cost of University of Florida Herbarium Services and Supplies.
- The Herbarium does not maintain private collections. All specimens accessioned and/or housed in the Herbarium are considered the property of the Florida Museum of Natural History with the exception of material borrowed via inter-institutional loan agreement.