There is no institution more important for botanists than the herbarium. In layman terms, it is a collection of dried plants and you can think of it as a plant library. It provides information and data on everything related to plants, and documents the incredible plant biodiversity on earth. It is the center of all botanical activities and at it’s core we find taxonomy to be the most prominent of them all. The herbarium is the primary reference source for the taxonomist, were floristic works and monographies are made.
Herbariums are composed of herbarium specimens, which not only include the dried plants mentioned earlier but also pollen, fossils, wood samples, dried fruits, photographs and drawings. It is important to include all of them because they provide a more complete description of the plant world, with more data to work. A collected plant only has value if it has great information on it, and this information is stored in a way accesible to researchers, as in a huge database.
Herbariums are usually the place to indentify plant species or discover new ones to science, they provide material for making taxonomic revisions, to measure species morphology, and help as a repository for new collections of plants.
Also really important is they are a repository of type specimens, on which the scientific name of a taxon is formally attached.
I have been associated with the herbarium in my university (abbreviation: ICESI) since it began two years ago. I’m skilled in it’s operation and maintenance, and i’m currently in the position of herbarium assistant. Most important to me, is that i have learned in the field trips how to properly collect plants, how to press them, and register the neccessary information to later store them in the herbarium. This is key since i want to be part on plant biodiversity surveys across Colombia and the tropics.