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GPI: Resources for Digitising Herbarium Specimens

(Source: LAPI databasing manual.doc)

Add a new determination for each different name on the sheet or type folder. Only add the same name more than once if there is different information present (i.e. different authors, determinavits or determination dates).

(Source: LAPI databasing manual.doc)


Enter information in locality description if locality name is not given as a single location.


Enter a single location in place name and transcribe the rest in locality description. Do not repeat the information.


Transcribe exactly as on label for both options.

The Global Plants Initiative (GPI) is an international collaboration aiming to digitise and make available plant type specimens, together with other botanical resources, for scholarly purposes. The GPI network of content providers currently includes more than 166 partner herbaria representing over 57 countries.

Two active partner networks currently exist, representing the main regional foci of the first two stages of the global project. The African Plants Initiative (API) grew out of discussions at the 2003 AETFAT conference, while the first meeting of the Latin American Plants Initiative (LAPI) was held in 2007. LAPI includes partners already active in API as well new parties with a specific interest in the Latin American region. Several of the larger herbaria with international collections are now moving ahead with digitisation of type material from regions outside of Africa and Latin America. Meanwhile, the global network continues to expand and now includes its first Asian partner in Nepal. Since its inception in 2003, this global effort to digitise and provide access to plant types has been funded and spearheaded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The output of GPI is presented through JSTOR Plant Science an online environment that brings together content, tools, and people interested in plant science. It provides access to baseline data vital to plant science – plant type specimens, taxonomic structures, scientific literature, and related materials, making them widely accessible to the plant science community as well as to researchers in other fields and to the public. Individuals from subscribing bodies can register for a personal account allowing access to sophisticated and powerful functionality. This includes the ability to view and manipulate high quality, high resolution, digital images of specimens and to perform morphological analyses with the help of a precise measurement tool. Users can tag objects of particular interest and share these tags with collaborators, colleagues and classmates. The resource has potential uses for those researching, teaching or studying botany, biology, ecology, environmental and conservation studies.

The Global Plants Initiative project aims to digitise in the region of 2 million records of plant type specimens from around the world, with over 800,000 specimens having been digitised for the project to date. In addition the JSTOR Plant Science resource currently includes over 100,000 taxon entries from digitised Floras, almost 16,000 archival objects, over 14,000 photographs of live plants, habitats and plant-based artefacts and more than 6,500 paintings, illustrations and drawings. Users are able to perform searches across all of these objects by text searches of metadata fields, or by a hierarchical browsing method. Where objects are linked to taxon names, as currently implemented for the African Checklist, results are grouped under species pages. The searches also return relevant articles from JSTOR's linked collection of scientific journal articles, which includes key taxonomic titles such as the American Journal of Botany, Kew Bulletin and Taxon.

Burchardia multiflora is endemic to Australia. This specimen was collected by Mrs Georgiana Molloy, she was one of the first botanical collectors in Western Australia and lived in Vasse between 1839 and 1843. She collected specimens for Mangles which were later described by Hooker and Lindley.

C.P. numbers are often confused with collection numbers when in fact, C.P. stands for Ceylon Plants.

The numbers are listed in G.H.K. Thwaites' Enumeratio plantarum Zeylaniae, an enumeration of Ceylon plants, with descriptions of the new and little known genera and species, observations on their habitats, uses, native names, etc. (assisted in the identification of the species and synonymy by J.D. Hooker). Biodiversity Heritage Library

"Thwaites gave the same C.P. number to all specimens in the Herbarium which he considered to be of the same species, regardless of when or by whom they were collected. Consequently specimens which bear the same C.P. number may or may not actually be duplicates. " National Herbarium Sri Lanka

Therefore, do not enter C.P. numbers in HerbCat – the exception is if there is little other information, then enter this information in General Comments.

All information below was generously provided to us by Tony Orchard:
Two more snippets for your scratch pad, discovered by me in the Kew
archives last year:
Letter from Robert Heward to George Bentham, 9 Dec 1840, regarding Allan
Cunninghams New Zealand collections of 1838:
"the numbers refer to his paper in the Annals of Natural History [ie to
Cunningham's NZ Flora].  With this you will receive a set of Cunninghams New
Zealand plants collected on his last expedition to that island
Letter Heward to Bentham, 8 Feb 1842 [refers to Mimosaceae, particularly
Acacia, and covers Australian material particularly]
 "The running numbers at the top of the tickets merely refer to a rough list that I made for my own convenience 
when I looked out the Acaciae from other portions of the herbarium.  Cunninghams number and year of collection (when attainable) are on the left hand lower corner of
the ticket (thus 167/1818)."
The above of course only strictly apply to material now
stamped Herbarium Benthamianum, but I would guess they are more generally

Subject: RE: Allan Cunningham's funny numbers [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Dear Ms Weech

The numbering system for Cunningham is very complex, and I am not surprised that you are having difficulty it. The reasons are multifarious. I can give you a partial answer now, and will get you some more data once I have a chance to check things at home.

Cunningham's numbers were added retrospectively to collections by him, just before he despatched material to Kew. So, if in 1823 he had 230 collections to send, he numbered them 1 to 230, prepared a list, and sent them off to Aiton. In 1825 if he had accumulated another 172 collections, he numbered them 1 to 172, prepared a list, and sent them off to Aiton. Therefore the lower numbers (in this case 1-172) will be duplicated, and only make sense in combination with a date. Often the date is missing. I am trying to compile a list of numbers vs date vs taxon name which should eventually help tighten the data, but this is still some years off.

After his death his remaining collections were bequeathed to Robert Heward, who tidied up the labels and distributed them to various institutions, but with the major set going to Kew. It was Heward who adopted the 'fractional' system, with Cunningham's collecting number and date often combined, in the form 30th March 243/1823, where 243 is the 'collecting number' and 30 March 1823 is the collection date. The combination of collecting number and date is a unique identifier of a single collection. If you have sheets where the same number is associated with different dates, then you have a mixed sheet, with each number+date combination being a different collection, usually from a different locality. It is not unusual for several different collections to be mounted on the same sheet in K. The localities may be cryptic. Cunningham used initials to note localities. Some of these are: L.R. = Lachlan River; M.R. = Macquarie River (both of these mainly from the first Oxley expedition in April-Sept 1817); E.C.T. = East Coast Tropics (i.e. the NE coast of Queensland); N.W.C. = North West Coast, and several others that escape me just at present.

New Zealand collections present extra complications. Both Allan Cunningham (twice, Aug-Dec 1826 & Apr-Dec 1838) and Richard Cunningham (once, 1833-34)) visited the North Island of New Zealand. Watch the labels carefully to tell the difference between A.Cunningham and R. Cunningham - they quite often look similar, and the labels were sometimes written by Heward, so you can't rely on hand writing.

There is another complication with NZ specimens. Heward applied his own numbering system to these when sorting them out after Cunningham's death. Heward's number is usually at the top of the labels and can be disregarded.

I hope that helps a little, but each sheet needs to be considered on its merits. I presume you are scanning the sheets as you go. If you want to alert me to these as they are done I can look at them and check your data against the image on-line to double check the interpretation if that would be hepful. I am happy to do this anyway as I am gathering information on surviving sheets, and it would help my project to know what you have found.

Another point - I am hoping to get to Kew for 2-3 months early next year (tentatively March-May), and would be happy to look at any problems for you at that time, if you want to accumulate sheets. In particular I would be glad to see any NZ Cunningham material - when I was in Kew last year I concentrated mainly on Australian material. I will try to dig out a list of what Cunningham claimed to have collected in NZ to give you a targetted list of taxa, if that would be helpful.

I will get back to you in a week or so with more information.

Best wishes

Tony Orchard

Subject: Allan Cunningham's funny numbers

Dear Dr. Orchard,

After I mentioned some difficulties we were having databasing some of Allan Cunningham's specimens for the Global Plants Initiative (GPI) project here at Kew, Dick Brummit suggested I contacted you as he said you are writing a book on Cunningham! and he kindly gave me your email and suggested I copied Dr. George in too as, he said, you are both very helpful.

We are currently databasing some Oxalis specimens collected by Cunningham in New Zealand and some of them appear to have several numbers written in different handwriting. Some of the numbers are in the 500's and the other set are in the 200's. On other occasions I have seen specimens where he writes a number with a line and a date underneath. Sometimes one number appears several times on a sheet with several different dates under it! We were therefore wondering if you could shed some light on what his numbering system was like! Did he collect things and then number the taxa rather than the separate collections? What does it mean when different dates appear under the same number? Did he return to collect at the same place at different dates and give these collections the same numbers? Or are the later dates determination dates? Did he assign herbarium numbers as well as collection numbers?

Here are some examples of the information on some of the labels we have come across:


No 588 Oxalis divergens A.Cunn.

A. Cunningham 1833

A. Cunningham 1838

No 585 Oxalis cataracta [cataractae] A.Cunn.

A. Cunningham 108


A. Cunningham 1834

The latter was on sheet with:


Oxalis catarracta [cataractae] A.Cunn.

A. Cunningham 108


Any pointers you could give us to demystify Cunningham's numbering system would be very much appreciated as we are finding more and more of his specimens!

Yours sincerely,

Marie-Hélène Weech

Numerical list of dried specimens of plants in the Museum of the Honl. East India Company, which have been supplied by Dr.Wallich, superintendent of the botanic garden at Calcutta.

Nathaniel Wallich, MD, PhD, FRS, FLS, FRGS, (1786–1854) and the Herbarium of the Honourable East India Company, and their relation to the de Candolles of Geneva and the Great Prodromus (p 325-348)



 The Wallichian Herbarium

See Wallich Labels for example images.

Specimens labelled "Species Blancoanae" are most likely collected by Merrill, E.D. to replace specimens originally described by Blanco, F.M. but which Blanco did not preserve.

Merrill wrote:

"In 1912 it occurred to me that, as Blanco preserved no botanical material, the preparation of an exsiccata to consist of specimens that should represent the various species described by him, as these were understood by me after long experience in the field and a critical study of each individual description, would be very desirable."

See Species Blancoanae and the Smithsonian Institution page for more information.

(Source: LAPI databasing manual.doc)

Information that may be entered into the General Comments Field on HerbCat

  • Enter any vernacular names on label or sheet;
  • When more than one barcode on same sheet enter: With K123456789… etc.
  • If a drawing is present on sheet add enter: Illustration given
  • If part of the protologue is present on sheet enter: Protologue given
  • If additional information is given enter: More information given
  • If a map is present on the sheet enter: Map given
  • If a photograph is on the sheet enter Photograph given
  • Enter information concerning phenology, such as Flor. April.


  • Only enter the date of purchase/communication/received if there is no collection date.


  • Do not enter bibliographic information
  • Do not enter information from stamps – the exception is if there is no collection date, but there is a date present in one of the stamps, then enter this information. (I.e. Herbarium Hookerianum 1867)

(Source: LAPI databasing manual.doc)

Information that may be entered into the Private notes field
n HerbCat

Your own notes. Enter only if information not on sheet and may be helpful to other people.

If herbarium specimen is placed in the wrong herbarium region enter: Misplaced specimen, should be filed under XXX (replace XXX with the correct region)


Scratchpads developed and conceived by: Vince Smith, Simon Rycroft, Dave Roberts, Ben Scott...