A herbarium is a research collection of pressed, dried, and labeled plant specimens arranged by a classification scheme. Herbarium specimens are references for plant identification and document plant locations, habitat, abundance, and flowering/fruiting periods. The herbarium as a "library" of plant specimens are loaned and traded ("exchanged") with other herbaria worldwide.

The University of Georgia Herbarium [GA], founded in the 1920s, is one of the largest herbaria in the southeastern United States with over 230,000 sheets of vascular plants from around the world. Emphasis is on plants from the Southeast, particularly those from Georgia. The GA Herbarium is a facility within the Plant Biology Dept. and is also associated with the Georgia Museum of Natural History.

Uses of the collection

The operations of the herbarium are local, national, and international in scope. Graduate and undergraduate students with interests ranging from the agricultural sciences to zoology use herbarium material to identify plants and determine plant locations. Tours are conducted for numerous school groups, clubs, and other organizations. In addition, students volunteer or enroll in internships and independent studies to work directly with herbarium staff. Every year, the herbarium staff provides over 1,000 plant identification and information requests from private individuals through state extension and other governmental agencies. Researchers at UGA and neighboring institutions also extensively utilize the collection. Besides loans to and from qualified institutions, the GA Herbarium is host to scores of visiting scientists each year who visit to examine specimens and consult with the staff.

Collection development and maintenance

The Curator (a faculty member in the Plant Biology Dept.) and the Curatorial Assistant are responsible for the collection. Graduate and undergraduate students assist with some curatorial duties as independent study, internship, or volunteer projects. The collection is stored in metal storage units in an electronic compactorized system. Computerization of records is currently underway.

The collection grows steadily through local field work and donated material. Students at UGA, especially those involved with floristic work, deposit their voucher sets for their projects at the Herbarium. In addition, the Herbarium participates in an exchange program with other herbaria worldwide to obtain several thousand specimens per year.

Herbarium staff are working on a Georgia Plant Atlas and are involved with the Generic Flora of the Southeastern United States, centered at Harvard University. Current revisionary work includes studies on the relationships of certain temperate lily-like plants and phytochemistry of medicinal plants.