Naturalists — Let’s Geek Out!


Herbarium:  The Quest to Preserve and Classify the World’s Plants

by Barbara M. Thiers

Published by Timber Press in association with the New York Botanical Garden

From the moment I saw the cover of this book, I knew it was for me.  And if you’re a naturalist, plant conservationist, citizen scientist, or serious gardener, this book may speak to you as well.  

For those who may not be familiar with the term ‘herbarium,’ it refers to a collection of dried and mounted plants. Specific accompanying data is often used in determining their taxonomic classification.

Did I just hear you mentally yawn?  It’s not like that at all.  For the right audience, this book is anything but dry!

When Barbara Thiers, the director of the New York Botanical Garden herbarium, admitted that she and her peers were stumped when asked to name the significant milestones in the history of herbaria, you can sense that the idea for this book was born.   

The resulting volume covers some of the highlights of herbaria and spans about 600 years, touching six continents.  You will learn a bit about the people who undertook this work and the challenges of both the exotic locations and the collection process.  Additionally, you will also discover some interesting historical events that were impacted by or occurred adjacent to the collection efforts.   

Also, don’t forget to read the captions associated with the many illustrations.   Some are mini-stories on their own. 

The book succeeds in explaining why these collections are critical to understanding biodiversity through time to the present and into the future.  

Why you should not miss this one:

  • carefully researched and richly detailed
  • illustrations include not just plants but historical images 
  • appendix includes list of major herbaria across the globe, many of which have an online presence for you to further explore

Thanks to NetGalley, Timber Press, and the author, Dr. Thiers, for the opportunity to read a digital copy in exchange for this review.   

#NetGalley  #Herbarium   


Additional Resources

If you are interest in creating your own herbarium/dried plant collection, this is a very good resource:

Website:   The Use and Methods of Making a Herbarium/Plant Specimens from the

Want to get involved in the digitalization of these important specimen?  There are several projects on Zooniverse that need your help:

Website:  Notes on Nature at


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