More than 10,000 pressed and dried specimens of wild Indiana plants from the Butler University's Friesner Herbarium can now be viewed on a searchable database at http://palni.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/herbarium4.
The specimens, with their authenticating labels, provide a historical record of what was growing where and when.
Scientists, environmentalists, gardeners, teachers, artists and anyone else with an interest in Indiana plant life can look up plants based on the common name and scientific name, where and when the sample was collected and who collected it. They also are able to see what the plant looks like – or looked like, since some are now extirpated from the state.
Visitors to the site can search plants from all 92 counties and also search by growing conditions where the plants were found such as woods, bogs, or sandy soil.
"This has always been publicly available – if you wanted to come to Butler and look at it," said Rebecca Dolan, director of Butler's Friesner Herbarium. "This is our first online outreach to people."
The 10,000 images are about a quarter of what is in the herbarium collection. Janice Gustaferro, catalog librarian in Butler's Irwin Library who is involved in the digitization project, said about 500 images a month are being added, thanks to a grant administered by the Indiana State Library funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.
The digital herbarium is also on the State Library's Indiana Memories website http://www.in.gov/memories, with goal of enabling access to Indiana's unique cultural and historical heritage.
The entire collection is expected to be online in the next few years, depending on available funding.
"People are becoming more interested in native plants," Gustaferro said. "They are starting to realize how important these plants are to our native insects, birds, and other animals."
In addition to the images, the herbarium site contains lesson plans for teachers to use in class, links to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plant database for more information on each species and to the Butler University Botanical Studies journal, published by the Botany Department from 1929-1964. The journal was started by Ray C. Friesner, former professor and chair of the Botany Department, for whom the herbarium is named.
The goal is to provide outreach and education for the community, said Dolan, who has started a blog at blogs.butler.edu/Indianaplants that contains timely seasonal information on wild plants in central Indiana.
"We hope we can help people's appreciation of nature," Dolan said.