BEN # 138

Adolf Ceska aceska at CUE.BC.CA
Wed Jun 5 09:39:55 EST 1996

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No. 138                              June 5, 1996

aceska at        Victoria, B.C.
 Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

From: Weber William A <weberw at spot.Colorado.EDU>

A  relatively  small  computer  database that herbarium COLO was
able to put together with Tim Hogan's and Dina Clark's help,  is
a godsend to us. All that we did was to search the herbarium for
one  voucher  specimen each for every species that occurs in any
Colorado county (there are 66 as you know).  This  list  can  be
retrieved  for  any  county.  What we get out of this is that if
anybody goes into a county and wants to collect, here is a  list
of  the things we already have, and they can take this list with
them to avoid duplication. Fortunately, we have the field  books
of  our  major  collectors  and can check their itineraries very
easily to find out where they really were. Considering that long
ago, when I assessed our coverage by selecting the lilies, which
are easy to see and collect, and predictable as to their  occur-
rence,  I  found  we had 19 per cent of expected. I suppose that
now we are probably close to 30 per cent. We  certainly  can  be
more  efficient in the future. I think that "computerization" of
collections should arise from a  real  need,  not  to  just  get
Brownie points with your fellow curators and administrators.

I  do  not  go  along with total computerization. At the present
time the COLO herbarium  people  are  doing  only  the  Colorado
collections.  They  copy all of the information on the specimen,
and try to interpret the handwritten labels.  I  find  that  the
current  crop of students have a very hard time with them, prob-
ably because they have never had to read handwritten things, and
may rarely have used the pen themselves. I have to do a  lot  of
interpretation  for  them because I know almost every sheet that
goes into the place, and many of the collectors.  As  far  as  I
know,  this  job  will take several years and use a lot of money
and time on the part of the herbarium budget and  the  students,

Here  are  the  points that need to be considered very carefully
before embarking on total computerization:

 1. Remember that there are two parts  of  the  job;  doing  the
    entries  and proofreading them. These chores have to be done
    at two different times. The entering  clerk  cannot  be  ex-
    pected  to  proof  the  work. The files have to be retrieved
    again for proofing, and often the sheets are not in the same
    order as when they were entered.

 2. Time and money are deeply involved. In our  case,  with  the
    coverage  as  light  as  it  still is, money would better be
    spent by sending people into the field to collect, using the
    small data base mentioned above.

 3. The project has to be envisioned as continuing  indefinitely
    into the future. When the money dries up, the project stops.

 4. If  the  person  entering gets sick, or leaves, and there is
    time away from the machine, new specimens pile up and cannot
    be placed in the herbarium files  until  someone  gets  them
    entered.  This  is  what  I call a bottleneck. Herbaria have
    enough unfinished work sitting on the tables and do not need

 5. There is something to be said for entering new material into
    the computer at the  time  the  labels  are  produced.  This
    applies to start-up herbaria at least. I am talking about an
    herbarium with half a million specimens all needing entry.

 6. If any specimen has its name changed or is placed elsewhere,
    the computer needs to be told about it.

 7. Regardless  of how much is put into a database, the specimen
    itself may eventually have to be consulted.  The  data  base
    never contains detailed descriptions of the actual specimen.
    Identifications  cannot  be  accepted  on their face values.
    Some administrators think that once you have  a  data  base,
    the collection becomes superfluous; nothing could be farther
    from the truth.

The  big  question,  which  really  should  always be before the
people who give out the money, is this. Will the users of such a
data base ever pay our herbarium proportionately for the  infor-
mation  they  get out of it? I think the answer is obvious. They
will expect to get it free of charge. If I were a fiscal officer
of the university I would insist that there be a quid  pro  quo,
but  what administrator knows anything about an herbarium except
that it costs a great deal to maintain it? In his eyes the space
it occupies would be very useful for some other discipline. This
is one reason why herbaria are being given away.  Paradoxically,
the herbarium manager is encouraged to believe that computeriza-
tion  is  a  magic formula that will make the herbarium more re-
spectable in the eyes of an administrator  and  ones  scientific
colleagues in other institutions.

From: Bruce Bennett <bennettb at>

The  Yukon has seen several significant foreign invasions in the
last 150 years: the fur trade, the Gold Rush, and  the  building
of the Alaska highway, to name a few. With each of these events,
some  have stayed and adapted to the harsh northern environment,
others have simply disappeared. Along  with  the  new  residents
came  many  new  animals  and plants. This invasion continues to
this day. I am part of this invasion, having moved to the  Yukon
last  year.  Since  my  arrival,  I have started to locate other
invaders who may be overlooked,  the  vegetative  invaders,  the
alien plants.

Many  of  these  plants  are  familiar  to  most  Yukoners.  The
lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.) only came  to  the  Yukon
about  500  years  ago  or  so  and  continues to move north and
westward.  Sweet  clover  (Melilotus  alba  Desr.)  and  alfalfa
(Medicago  sativa L.) are familiar to travelers of our highways.
Others are relatively unknown  and  their  distributions  poorly
understood. Since my arrival at least five new species have been
added to our knowledge of the flora of the Yukon. Four turned up
in  the  area of Haines Junction and were brought to me by Lloyd
Freese of the National Park Service. He realized that the plants
were unusual, finding them growing along the highway. All proved
to be new species and included: Tansy  (Tanacetum  vulgare  L.),
creeping  thistle (Cirsium arvense [L.] Scop.), diffuse knapweed
(Centaurea diffusa Lam.) and salsify (Tragopogon dubius Scop.).

Perhaps the most exciting discovery was of the  chick-pea  milk-
vetch  (Astragalus  cicer L.). This is a very showy perennial of
the pea family. It was  found  on  a  roadside  in  the  extreme
southeast corner of the Yukon near the LaBiche river blooming on
June  10 last year. It had ascending to suberect stems (5) 25-60
(100) cm and large racemes of yellow flowers crowded into  ovoid
heads.  Leaflets  8-15  pairs.  It  has broad stipules. From the
remnants of the previous year, I found hairy black  marble-sized
10-15  mm  inflated  pods.  Most species that are this large and
colourful are also  very  easily  identifiable,  however  I  was
unable  to locate this species in any of the surrounding floras.
I spotted the same species along the windswept Haines road  near
the  B.C./Yukon  border.  It was still blooming in October while
the first snow was falling. This only  added  to  my  confusion.
Surely  a  plant  that  is this widespread cannot be too hard to
identify? My search finally ended this February. While on  vaca-
tion  in  Victoria  I visited the Royal B.C. Museum. I talked to
Chris Brayshaw who remarked that he had found a species  similar
to  my  description near Ft. Nelson several years ago. Likewise,
he was unable to find a description in any North American  Flora
and  finally  located  it in the Flora Europaea. With the assis-
tance of John Pinder-Moss, the biological collections manager at
the herbarium, we finally located it in  the  collections.  This
plant  comes from Belgium and north-central Russia southwards to
northern Spain and Bulgaria although it is known to occasionally
naturalize farther  north.  According  to  the  Atlas  of  North
American  Astragalus  Part  II,  Astragalus cicer is widely dis-
persed in moist grassy places, along  streams  and  ditches,  in
hedges, and in open woodland over most of continental Europe. It
was  introduced  in  the  United  States for trial as a cover or
forage  crop,  reportedly   naturalized   in   Whatcom   County,
Washington,  in  southern Manitoba, near Brandon and possibly in
northestern Nevada. The  Vascular  Plants  of  British  Columbia
reports  the occurrence in B.C. as being rare found in Coquitlam
and Williams Lake, and  also  reports  their  flower  colour  as
white.  I  will have to return to the Haines road this summer to
determine if this species also ranges south into B.C.

Barneby, R.C. 1964. Atlas of North American Astragalus Part  II.
   The  Ceridothrix,  Hypoglottis,  Piptolodoid, Trimeniaeus and
   Orophaca Astragali. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 13:597-1188.

Douglas, G.W., G.B. Straley,  and  D.  Meidinger  (eds.).  1989.
   Vascular  Plants  of  British Columbia: Dicotyledons (Diapen-
   siaceae  through  Portulacaceae).  Special   report   series,
   British  Columbia Ministry of Forests, number 2. Crown Publi-
   cations. Victoria, B.C.

Tutin, T.G., V.H. Heywood, N.A. Burgess, D.M. Moore, D.H. Valen-
   tine, S.M. Walters and D.A. Webb.  (eds.).  1964-1980.  Flora
   Europaea  Vol.2,  Rosaceae to Umbelliferae. Cambridge Univer-
   sity Press. p.114

From: Adolf Ceska <aceska at>

I bought the first volume (Pteridophytes to Butomaceae)  of  the
Arctic  Flora  USSR when I was a graduate student at the Charles
University in Prague in  1960.  I  was  thrilled  by  the  fresh
taxonomic  treatment  of  the  Russian  North  and I immediately
subscribed the series in the "Soviet Book" bookstore in  Prague.
My excitement did not last too long. Somebody pinched my copy of
the Pteridophytes and the "Soviet Book" ignored my subscription.
Nevertheless,  with  the help of my friends and booksellers like
Koeltz and Scientia I managed to gather at least the most impor-
tant volumes of the Arctic  Flora.  Some  taxonomic  treatments,
especially  those  by  Yurtzev and Tzvelev, are still useful and

The University of Alberta Press started to publish  the  English
translation of the Arctic Flora of the USSR and the first volume
appeared  last  year.  It  contains  Polypodiaceae  - Butomaceae
(originally published in 1960), and Gramineae  (originally  pub-
lished  in 1964). The treatment of pteridophytes is rather stale
and that of grasses was superceded by Tzvelev's "Grasses of  the
USSR."  In  spite  of  this, the translation of the Arctic Flora
should be praised since it makes this important work  accessible
to  the  broad  English-speaking  audience. The translation will
have six volumes, the last one will appear in 1998.

Flora of the Russian  Arctic.  Volume  1.  Translated  from  the
   original  Russian  "Arkticheskaya Flora SSSR" by G.C.D. Grif-
   fiths, edited by J.G. Packer. University  of  Alberta  Press,
   Edmonton. 1995. 330 p. ISBN 0-88864-269-5 [hard cover] Price:

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