Discussion
Started 24th Nov, 2021

Is it necessary to adjust the different numbering systems in herbaria around the world to a new standard that also specifies the origins?

According to the evaluations we have made among our colleagues on this subject and our own inquiries, another requirement has emerged. This means that there is a lack of standardization of the numbers used in the world's herbaria and given as the plant type codes. For example, for a plant samples of a species, collected from Turkey, stored in Geneva (G) herbarium, it has a different codes in other herbarium. For this reason, the species should be presented with the herbarium codes to be added to the country origin codes. Or some other digitising and coding systems. In this way, both the origin is indicated and even the collected plants can be classified. What do you guys think about it?
"TUR-G 125" instead "G 125"
Country codes are given below:

Most recent answer

Popular replies (1)

8th Dec, 2021
Werner Greuter
Università degli Studi di Palermo
The idea of standardising herbarium numbers is ill advised. Apart from the fact that it may create uncalled-for additional work if implemented retroactively, it may hamper the purpose of herbarium numbers which, usually, are accession numbers. There is some tradition, in smaller institutions in particular, for using herbarium numbers as a surrogate for collectors' numbers, which means that they are assigned to duplicate specimens as well, whether stored in the original place or distributed as gifts or on exchange. This leads to problems and errors; in particular, accession numbers are unique and can thus be cited in order to differentiate between duplicates, which is sometimes essential when it comes to type designation.
As an aside, there is already a system in place that is well known and widely used, which having been implemented in the JStor Global Plants images database (https://plants.jstor.org). It is not confusing and does not cause additional labour: it uses any existing herbarium numbers prefixed by the official "Index herbariorum" herbarium code (or "acronym"). The numbers are prefixed by the adequate number of zeros to match the longest extant (or foreseen) number used in that herbarium.
5 Recommendations

All replies (13)

24th Nov, 2021
Péter Csontos
Institute for Soil Sciences, Centre for Agricultural Research
I am sorry to say, but I do not consider it appropriate to introduce any new numbering/labeling system. In a larger herbarium, where many hundreds of thousands of herbarium specimens are kept, this work would tie up the workforce of the small staff for years. Yet they should rather be shown research and publication activities on herbarium materials that demonstrate the usefulness of herbariums to the scientific community, the general public, and decision makers.
24th Nov, 2021
Alper Uzun
Kahramanmaras Sutcu Imam University
What if we exclude the workload?
24th Nov, 2021
James Des Lauriers
Chaffey College, Alta Loma, CA
Hello Alper; Curators and collection managers are already buried! I agree with Peter. Best wishes, Jim Des Lauriers
26th Nov, 2021
Matthew Wheal
The Australian Wine Research Institute
Sounds like you will end up with something like this XKCD comic suggests : https://xkcd.com/927/
Most taxonomists revisiting the source materials seem capable of working with collections from more than one repository without getting confused.
My brief readings in the field suggest to me the problem is the original collection and assignment of -types, rather than filing and labelling issues per se.
1 Recommendation
26th Nov, 2021
Alper Uzun
Kahramanmaras Sutcu Imam University
Dear Matthew Wheal
Your comment was worth even opening this question. But, sometimes we even need to convince people that there is a problem somewhere. So the problems go on exponentially. By the way "Nice cartoon".
All the Best
Alper
3rd Dec, 2021
Kasim Jilo
Oromia Agricultural Research Institute
For new species, we can but for previously invented species it will make confusion to taxonomists and better do for new species those will be discovered hereafter
1 Recommendation
6th Dec, 2021
Steffen Kiel
Swedish Museum of Natural History
There is currently a drive towards DOI-based stable identifiers for museum-hosted specimens. But this does not mean that in-house numbers need to change, they just get linked to the stable identifiers.
2 Recommendations
8th Dec, 2021
Werner Greuter
Università degli Studi di Palermo
The idea of standardising herbarium numbers is ill advised. Apart from the fact that it may create uncalled-for additional work if implemented retroactively, it may hamper the purpose of herbarium numbers which, usually, are accession numbers. There is some tradition, in smaller institutions in particular, for using herbarium numbers as a surrogate for collectors' numbers, which means that they are assigned to duplicate specimens as well, whether stored in the original place or distributed as gifts or on exchange. This leads to problems and errors; in particular, accession numbers are unique and can thus be cited in order to differentiate between duplicates, which is sometimes essential when it comes to type designation.
As an aside, there is already a system in place that is well known and widely used, which having been implemented in the JStor Global Plants images database (https://plants.jstor.org). It is not confusing and does not cause additional labour: it uses any existing herbarium numbers prefixed by the official "Index herbariorum" herbarium code (or "acronym"). The numbers are prefixed by the adequate number of zeros to match the longest extant (or foreseen) number used in that herbarium.
5 Recommendations
8th Dec, 2021
Carlos Martins Vila-Viçosa
University of Porto
I believe that the herbaria code should prevail as first G-TUR, once the collection by itself is the first place to search, due to natural history artifacts. This could also be addressed as a complementary code, in another collumn of the database if one wants to search for the country in particular. Normally people search by species, and the country column can also be searched in the databases like GBIF. So a cross filter could retrieve this information already. I am not opposing the suggestion, just giving solutions, thinking as a herbaria regular user.
1 Recommendation
8th Dec, 2021
Alper Uzun
Kahramanmaras Sutcu Imam University
Let me give an example. Erysimum deflexum, which has remained unchanged for years in the flora of Turkey, is the best example showing the need for this. It was years later that the specimen of this species was resolved to belong to a plant species in China. The species name was the same but represented by two different type specimens in different herbaria. These situations are still possible. This species was even endemic to Turkey and was listed in the EN endangered category (Ekim et al., 2000). However, the truth came out much later. It turned out that our sample actually belongs to Ersimum szovitsianum occuring also in Iran and Armenia. However, we were even designing a conservation project, because of the distribution on the walls of Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, for this species in terms of conservation biology. When we realized this situation, we gave up. So I will say. Currently, the systems in herbariums have been made visible to more researchers, especially after digitalization. Therefore, the errors are much more reduced. I think it will serve to prevent unnecessary efforts in terms of species protection.
1 Recommendation
8th Dec, 2021
Péter Csontos
Institute for Soil Sciences, Centre for Agricultural Research
I think it’s usually wise to take the advice of experienced professors who are familiar with the subject. On the issue of herbarium code numbers/labels, I recommend taking into account the opinion of Professor Greuter, with which I fully agree.
1 Recommendation
9th Dec, 2021
Alper Uzun
Kahramanmaras Sutcu Imam University
Stable identifiers (like Doi as Steffan said or some other) are indispensable for the establishment of new systems. Even scientists were assigned with the ORCID number!. New ideas always bring a brake. Today, there is no defensible international system established for the whole herbaria. This idea is not independent of the unification of all the world's flora. It is inevitable for tomorrow, if not today.

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