Identification and care of taxonomic collections, Biology

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Q. Identification and Care of Taxonomic collections?

Collection of plant specimens is essential for taxconomic research. Herbarium specimens become a permanent record. Select the plant material carefully. The specimens collected should always be in flowering and fruiting stage. At least five specimens of each element should be collected preferably in different stages of flowering and fruiting. Preserve the specimen by pressing it an soon as it is collected from the sight. Observe the patterns produced by hybridisation, changes in soil., moisture, slope and light. For collecting specimens in their different stages of flowering and fruiting it is necessary to visit the locality several times during a year. The leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds of flowering plants are important. These will make the identification of specimens easy. Similarly collect insects flying towards a torch light in the evening by picking by using ultraviolet a lamps and also use mist nests for collecting birds, and follow other methods ,of collection as already discussed under herbarium and field methodology. While collecting the specimens use good judgement and do not collect rare or uncommon plants. You should know that some species have become extinct at particular sites because of thoughtless collection.

Now, press the plant specimens either by using a plant press that you have to purchase from a biological supply house or you construct it out of plywood sheets cut in to 12/18" pieces to be used for either end of the press. Best plant press has ability to hold plant material under a constant and firm pressure. Use newspaper for pressing the specimens. After arranging the specimens tightly close the press with ropes or straps to prevent the wrinkling of the specimens. Keep the press for drying. While collecting specimens note down the necessary data like date of collection, habit habitat, flower colour, locality. Local names, smell, presence or absence of latex, pollinating mechanism etc. in the field book. Now, prepare herbarium labels carefully and neatly in alegible hand. 

The specimen by attaching it to a sheet of mounting paper. Select good quality herbarium sheet for mounting the specimens as these should last long and not get spoiled by insects. Apply glue to the back of the specimen and press it slowly onto the mounting sheet. The flowers and fruits are the bulky parts of the plants. Fasten these with the strips of transparent linen tape. Now, store these sheets in wooden or steel cabinets and use repellents and fumigants. Repellents will keep insects away from the herbarium specimens while fumigants will kill insects. Be careful about the use of chemicals as these are extremely dangerous. Use only approved ones. Commonly used fumigants include - Cyanide gas, paradichlorobenzene (VB)carbon disulfide. The much simpler way is to spray DDT liquid application to the . interior of herbarium cases. The DDT liquid preparation is available in the market.

You can also protect your specimens in the herbarium cases by providing adequate heating arrangements. If it is not possible to mount all plant material directly on herbarium sheets, preserve them in wooden boxes. Preserve dry fruits in envelops, and label them. Preserve succulent material in liquid preservative made of 5% aqueous solution of the commercial formaldehyde. It will prevent decomposition of the material. Keep these containers in museums. For preserving the specimens for morphological study you can use 50% or 70% alcohol. This will prevent the specimens from decomposition. Store the collection of both plants as well as animals ' in fire proof and dust proof buildings. If possible store museum specimens in air conditioned buildings because these will provide uniform temperature throughout the year.

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