Institutional Policies

Herbarium policies including Collections of Ethno- and Economic Botany at Missouri Botanical Garden, New York Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution

Missouri Botanical Garden:

The Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium serves the nation and the world as one of the leading resources of plant research material.  In order for these collections be used in the best interest of proper contemporary studies and be protected and effectively preserved in the interest of future research, the following stipulations are made:


  • The Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium is open to all qualified visitors for the use of its specimens in planned studies.
  • Loans are made to botanical institutions or departments engaged in taxonomic research and postgraduate instruction. Ordinarily loans are not made to individuals. 
  • Written loan requests must be submitted to the Curator of the Herbarium.
  • Upon receipt of a shipment please verify the number, sign and return the PINK copy of the invoice to the Curator of the Herbarium. 
  • Loan requests should state - the name(s) of the workers on whose behalf they are made, the precise nomenclatural, taxonomic, scope including any synonyms, and the precise geographical range of the investigation. 
  • Loans are made for a period of one year. If there is need for further retention of the material being studied, a request for extension of the loan period should be made to the Curator of the Herbarium. 
  • The Garden reserves the right to request the return of its material at any time.


  • Herbarium specimens should be stored in sealed cases and kept free of insect and fungus infestation.
  • Under no circumstance should any contact-adhesive or cellulose self-adhesive tape or labels be used on any herbarium sheet. 
  • Herbarium sheets must not be bent, folded, or laid face down. Except during actual examination, type specimens should remain in their red-bordered folders. 
  • Loans may be transferred only after permission is attained from all institutions involved.


Before being returned, every herbarium sheet should be legibly annotated with typescript, ink, or indelible lead pencil, NOT BALLPOINT PEN, by the investigator showing determinavit or confirmavit. Annotation, preferably on labels approximately 2.5 x 10 cm, should bear the accepted name of the taxon, the name of the investigator and his or her institution, and the date of identification. Type specimens should be indicated by the basionym. All annotation labels should be placed above or near the original label to facilitate filing and future study.
Specimens that cannot be positively named, or those found to belong to groups not under consideration, should be annotated to the extent possible. Where a sheet is found to contain two or more taxa, each element of the mixture should be indicated with a separate determination slip.
Amplification of herbarium labels by means of data from sheets from other herbaria will be appreciated, especially where locality, date, collector, or collector's number are concerned. In any other circumstance existing labels, annotations, etc. must not be removed, obscured, or in any way altered.


No portion of the specimen on herbarium sheets may be removed without prior approval of the Curator of the Herbarium.  However, routine, careful dissection of parts on sheets or in packets is permitted without express written permission.  The dissected parts should be placed in the fragment packet attached to the herbarium sheet when the dissection is finished.
If authorization has been granted for the removal of pollen, pollen or spore-bearing structures, or leaves, then the following procedures will be observed:
  • A designated staff member of the Herbarium must give approval for herbarium sheets from which pollen or spore material is to be removed.
  • In no instance may pollen be taken from a type or other designated historical specimen, or from species represented in the herbarium by less than five collections, or from collections made before 1900. 
  • Pollen should be removed from no more than one flower per sheet.  If possible the entire flower should not be damaged. 
  • Such material may not be removed from a herbarium sheet for a second time. 
  • A label must be affixed to the sheet from which pollen or spore material has been removed. This label must record the date of removal, the name of the person who obtains the sample, and the place of deposit of the prepared slide(s). 
  • For scanning electron microscope studies, a photograph (ca. 7 x 10 cm) of the pollen or spore should be returned to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Such photographs should provide the collector's name and number, name of taxon, MO accession number, and magnification.


All Missouri Botanical Garden specimens should be cited with the standard international acronym "MO" in any published lists of specimens. Where possible, a copy of any publication resulting from studies based on MO specimens should be sent to MO.


The herbarium collection is limited to vascular plants and bryophytes.  Material of other plant groups, if acquired, will be sent as a gift or exchange to appropriate institutions with the capacity to properly care for and utilize them.
The Garden's priorities for developing its herbarium collection are to acquire and make available for research:
  • an outstanding assemblage of vascular plant specimens from the Neotropics, especially Mesoamerica and Andean South America, and Africa, and a comprehensive collection of mosses from throughout the world.
  • specimens from botanically unique areas or places that are being rapidly destroyed or modified. 
  • specimens of taxa within the special interests and expertise of staff members. 
  • significant smaller herbaria that might otherwise be dispersed or lost through neglect. 
  • a representative collection of taxa from the remainder of the world.
In addition to dry-preserved herbarium material, the collection may contain liquid-preserved plant parts, photographs, microscopic slide preparations, specially prepared specimens suitable for DNA or other chemical extraction, and other non-traditionally preserved materials.
 Any plant materials acquired must have been gathered and prepared in compliance with state, national, and international laws and regulations, and must have been collected in a rational, scientific, and ethical manner.  Preserved materials of endangered species will be handled in compliance with the provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 and/or the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) of 1977.
 Accessioned specimens should, to the extent possible, meet the following criteria  although other special considerations may apply:
  • Specimens should be fertile, complete, and in good condition.
  • Specimens should be associated with appropriate data on collector, locality, ecology, and specific specimen information.
Specimens which do not meet these criteria may be refused, especially if the collection is vouchered in another established herbarium.  Such decisions will be made after consultation between the Curator of the Herbarium and appropriate research staff.
 Specimens are acquired through staff collections, exchange, gifts, purchases or bequests.
 Specimens that are vouchers for Garden supported studies or its living collection will be accepted.
 Some specimens may be used as gifts, exchange, or educational materials, if this will further the Garden's mission and research goals.


Specimens which are needlessly duplicated, deteriorated, or do not fit the mission of the Garden, may be deaccessioned.  Deaccession of a specimen should be undertaken only after careful consideration and consultation between the Curator of the Herbarium and other herbarium staff.
Specimens that are deaccessioned may be sent as gifts or exchange to appropriate institutions or, if they have deteriorated to the point where they have no scientific or historical value, they may be destroyed


The Missouri Botanical Garden has never levied user charges for basic scientific access to its specimens, and has no plans to do so.  The Garden has always provided its services without cost to the international botanical community, and is firmly committed to increasing the accessibility of its collections.  The benefits of having the collection readily available to answer a multitude of multi-disciplinary questions not only increases our general knowledge about plants, but improves the quality of the data in the collection.  This up-to-date information, in turn, is of enormous utility for floristic, ecological, ethnobotanical, and many other kinds of research projects.


The herbarium collection is available for consultation by any individual with a legitimate reason to do so.  Specimens may be studied in the herbarium or by means of loans.  Visitors are required to register with the herbarium secretary and are oriented to the collection by a member of the herbarium staff.


Specimen data in electronic form will generally be available to researchers via the Internet or other networks, except as outlined below.


The value of data as an institutional resource is increased through its widespread and appropriate use; its value is diminished through misuse, misinterpretation, or unnecessary restrictions to its access.
This policy applies to institutional scientific data and is intended to improve access to these data.  The policy does not apply to notes, records, or databases that are the personal property of individuals.  In all cases applicable legal statutes and regulations that guarantee either protection or accessibility to institutional records will take precedence over this policy.


Access to the Missouri Botanical Garden's scientific institutional data, i.e. the permission to view or query institutional specimen data, will be granted to a wide range of users, from employees to the general public.  Missouri Botanical Garden data stewards will be responsible for assigning each item of institutional data and each standard view of that data to one of two categories: public or limited-access.
As appropriate, data stewards will identify specimen data elements or views that have no access restriction and that may be released to users outside of the Garden.  These will be designated public data.  When deemed necessary, data stewards may designate some data elements as limited-access data.  Limited-access data may include information which is part of active, ongoing research projects.  Data considered to be limited-access may be made available on a specific request and approval basis.  When necessary, the Computer Steering Committee will make the final determination on data restriction and requests for access.
Data users will be expected to observe any ethical restrictions that apply to data to which they have access, and to abide by applicable laws or policies with respect to access, use, or disclosure of information.
Expressly forbidden is the disclosure of limited-access institutional data or the distribution of such data in any medium to third parties without express written consent.  Also forbidden is the access or use of any institutional data for one's own personal gain or profit or for the personal gain or profit of others.


The policy for selecting material for destructive sampling for DNA extraction from herbarium specimens is the following:
  • The investigator must have made a diligent and good faith effort to obtain appropriate material for extraction from other sources.
  • The investigator must have enough experience with the laboratory techniques and the characteristics of their group to insure that there is a reasonable probability of successfully extracting useable DNA from the sampled material. 
  • Only material in the fragment packets may be used. 
  • Only the minimum amount of material needed may be taken. 
  • Only one or two specimens per taxon may be sampled. 
  • A specimen may not be sampled a second time. 
  • Sampling is restricted to non-type specimens. 
  • Sampling must be only from the most recent collections, i.e. those collected since the 1960's. 
  • Any sampled specimen must be clearly annotated with what material was removed, by whom, for what purpose, etc. 
  • Register GenBank/EMBL accession numbers. 
  • Acknowledge both the Missouri Botanical Garden and each individual collector of material provided in each publication in which data is used. 
  • Provide the Garden with reprints from all resulting publications. 
  • Exceptions may be made to this policy, but are only granted after consultation with the Curator of the Herbarium at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

New York Botanical Garden:


The NY Herbarium houses collections that represent both vascular and non-vascular plants and fungi from all countries and biomes throughout the world, especially those from temperate and tropical America (the long-standing focus of NY's research program) and plant groups studied by past and present staff.  The Herbarium obtains specimens via staff collections, exchange of duplicates with other herbaria, adoption of orphaned herbaria, and occasionally through purchases or gifts.  The Herbarium endeavors to accession high-quality specimens useful primarily for systematic and floristic research, and also for ethnobotanical, biogeographical, and other studies.  Quality is assured by encouraging the staff to collect good, fertile specimens and by maintaining exchange agreements with herbaria that provide well prepared and labeled, fertile specimens from areas of scientific interest to NY.
Future acquisitions will concentrate on a) specimens from temperate and tropical America and other areas in which an NY staff member is working actively; b) specimens of taxonomic groups, worldwide, studied by NY staff members; and c) worldwide reference specimens of all plant and fungal groups.  Exchanges of specimens with other herbaria will conform to the concentrations (a--c) mentioned above.  Other acquisitions (e.g., orphaned herbaria, purchases) will also conform to these concentrations, and any duplicate specimens acquired in orphaned herbaria will be dispersed to other interested herbaria.


It is the responsibility of NY staff to obtain all necessary permits before collecting, to leave duplicate specimens in local herbaria, to send labels for their collections and subsequent determinations of their collections to host herbaria in a timely fashion, and to send reprints of publications based, even in part on fieldwork in host countries, to host herbaria and botanists.


Loans of specimens are made to recognized herbaria upon approval of the request by the Director of the Herbarium and/or a scientist if the request is for material within the scientist's area of research interest.  With few exceptions, specimens are not sent on loan to individuals without an institutional affiliation.  NY does not charge for loans.  Lending specimens is beneficial to the researcher, NY, and the scientific community.  Scientific borrowers name many NY unidentified specimens for the first time and update the annotations on others.  Such accurate up-to-date annotations are essential to all research endeavors for which the NY Herbarium is a resource.


The Herbarium is open to any visitor, professional or amateur, with a legitimate reason to consult the collections.  All visitors must check in and be oriented by a member of the Herbarium staff.  No charge is made for on-site study of the collections.


The collections of the New York Botanical Garden Herbarium are maintained to balance preservation of the integrity of specimens with use for scientific research.  While effort will be made to accommodate researchers, decisions concerning destructive sampling are made on a case-by-case basis.  As a rule, no material may be removed from specimens without prior consent of the Director of the Herbarium or a designated member of the Herbarium staff. Permission for removal of material, when given, is contingent upon adherence to the following guidelines:
  • Samples of any kind may be removed from specimens only when there is adequate material available. Care must be taken not to damage the scientific value of the specimen.
  • Pollen should be removed from no more than one flower per sheet. If possible, the whole flower should not be damaged or removed. 
  • Material may not be removed from type collections, from historical specimens, or from taxa represented in the herbarium by less than six collections. 
  • Each specimen must be annotated to indicate the type of material removed, the date of removal, the name and institutional affiliation of the person who removed the sample, the type of study, and the identification of the specimen accepted by the researcher. 
  • Material may not be removed from an herbarium sheet for a second time, if the nature of the study is the same. 
  • For anatomical and morphological studies, the researcher must return to The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium either a duplicate, labeled permanent pollen, spore, or leaf slide or an SEM photograph. 
  • For molecular studies, sampling requests should indicate the amount of material needed. Specimens must be annotated with the identification for the specimen accepted by the researcher and GenBank accession numbers. Results must be reported in the form of a list of specimens sampled (taxon name, collector's name and collection number) and an indication of the negative or positive results obtained from the sample. Samples obtained in this way must be properly stored and curated, and material may be provided to others for further study. The researcher must provide NY with location and storage method of any left-over sample. Storage facility must be permanent. The New York Botanical Garden reserves the right to request DNA or sequence material originally obtained from NY specimens. 
  • For large or complicated requests for material for DNA extractions or other studies, researchers will be encouraged to come to The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium, using their own funds, to select specimens for sampling.


The information on herbarium specimen labels will normally be available without charge on-site to anyone with a legitimate reason for consulting the specimens.  There is a charge of $30 per hour, however, if, upon request, data are extracted from the specimens and provided by a member of the Herbarium staff.
Data from many groups of specimens are posted on NY's web site (  NY shares its specimen database records, those in the production database as well as those on the web, in just about any desired format.  In addition to the specimen records, database authority files can be provided. These include, but are not limited to, botanical authors, collectors, and publications. Most authority files are under constant revision as cataloguing projects proceed.  In an effort to protect populations of endangered species, some data (such as specific locality information) have been removed from on-line records of specimens of species that appear on the United States Federal Endangered Plant Species list and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. 

Smithsonian National Herbarium:

The collections of the U.S. National Herbarium are available for scientific observation by all qualified visitors. Requests to borrow specimens will be considered from recognized botanical institutions or departments.


A loan must be requested by an official staff member of the institution, not by students or non-staff scientists. State for whom the material is being requested and the nature of their project. Provide the names (including synonyms) under which specimens are likely to be filed. Specify the geographical area desired for the requested species. Please do not request type specimens unless and until they are necessary for critical analysis. State if a selection of material, especially common species, will meet the needs of the investigator.


If the requested taxon is represented in our herbarium by more than 5 collections in our herbarium, our practice is to retain selected sheets for comparative purposes. If a requested loan involves a significant quantity of specimens, we encourage the investigator to visit and personally select from the available material. Loans are made for one year unless otherwise stipulated by US. However, we ask that loans be returned at the earliest opportunity; partial returns are acceptable. An extension of the loan period may be requested through a written request to the Collections Manager. US reserves the right to request the return of its loan material at any time.


Type specimens must remain in their folders. - The unprinted newsprint used for packing all specimens may be removed. - Verify the number and condition of specimens. - Sign, date and return invoice to the Department of Botany.


Herbarium sheets must not be laid face downward, bent or folded. Herbarium specimens should be stored in dry, sealed cabinets to avoid insect and fungus infestation, and not left on countertops or open storage for extended periods of time.


  • Only with prior approval from a curator or the Collections Manager of the U.S. National Herbarium may material be dissected or removed from any herbarium specimen. If you agree to the conditions, sign this form and mail it to US (Collections Manager, U.S. National Herbarium, Smithsonian Institution, MRC 166, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012) along with your sampling proposal. You will receive back a copy either granting or denying permission to remove samples for destructive analysis from US herbarium specimens.
When requesting to sample herbarium sheets:
  • Describe briefly your project and state the purpose for which the sample will be taken.
  • Describe the technique to be used on the samples. 
  • Describe how you have successfully used this technique before on fresh or dried material. 
  • State the amount of material required from one specimen. (Both mg and area.) 
  • State the number of samples required State the criteria you will use to select specimens for sampling.


Existing notes, labels, annotations, etc. must never be removed, obscured, or altered. We would appreciate any amplification of label data that may be obtained from duplicates on loan from other herbaria. Please supply this information on an annotation label and cite the herbarium sheet from which this data was taken. Before returning specimens, if the investigator is confident of the identification, a determination (or affirmation) label should be glued to the herbarium sheet, above or near the original label whenever possible. This annotation should be legible, prepared with permanent ink, and should include the taxon name, the investigators name, institution, and date of determination.   Do not write directly on the herbarium sheet except to indicate the different elements of a mixed collection. If a sheet contains more than one taxon, clearly delineate each element of the mixture, and annotate each element with a separate determination slip. Type specimens should also be annotated with the basionym, citation of the publication, and an indication of the status (e.g. holotype, isotype, syntype, paratype, etc.). Please remember to annotate any separate fruits or bulky specimens that correspond to a herbarium voucher sheet.


Specimens must not leave the premises of the borrowing institution unless prior commitment of willingness to accept transfer is obtained from the proposed recipient, which must be another recognized botanical institution, and prior permission is granted by US.


Specimens should be packed in a way similar to that in which they were received. Place each herbarium sheet between a folded sheet of interleaving (preferably unprinted newsprint) so that any fragments which may loosen during shipment can be associated with the proper specimen. A stack of specimens not more than 6" (1.5 dm.) high, should be securely bundled between cardboards for support. Bundles should be soundly packed, allowing for no movement of the material, in a sturdy shipping box. US collections borrowed by institutions overseas should be returned by airmail. Accompanying the returned specimens, we would appreciate a list of synonyms derived from the taxonomic study for which the specimens were borrowed. Proper cross references can then be placed in our herbarium which will facilitate proper filing of specimens not annotated by the investigator.


Use the standard internationally recognized acronym "US" when citing collections of the United States National Herbarium. Cite the US sheet number to identify a specimen. Do not cite barcode number; it is not permanent. We would appreciate receiving any publications resulting from studies based on our collections.