Photographing pressed plant specimens for iNat

I’m curious if any botanically-oriented iNatters routinely photograph their pressed plant specimens for submission to iNaturalist. Long before iNat came along or digital cameras and smartphones were available, I pressed a number of plant specimens for my own use in a “mini-herbarium.” I’m not sure what to do with that collection now, but perhaps photo’ing some of the better, more identifiable specimens and posting to iNat would be worthwhile since I haven’t encountered some of those plant species to photo or visited some of these locations in many years. Thoughts?

Here’s one example where I had a pressed specimen and a couple of print photos:


Until you ae unable to use it, your herbarium has an inestimable value to yourself, in order to identify specimens, as plants having no ways to run away when condition changes and becomes precarious, have this strong ability to adapt itself, look how Euphorbia cyparissias can be so different depending of the climatic condition at one place: an ordinary year, a damp year, a year with heat and dry summer…
If well done, I am sure local botanical garden if they have herbarium would be pleased to take care of yours…
I have worked with historical herbarium: De Candolle… So I know the intrinsèque value of a collection, it is the only proof of evolution if there is one, and depending, the proof such plant was found at a certain place, now extinct (which I hope not…) etc…


I’ve never done this with pressed plants myself, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. I think it’s a great idea to get that info out into the world!


If as in this case they are your own personal specimens, I see no harm in posting them, ensuring of course that the date and location reflect when and where the specimen was originally collected.

I would discourage people from doing this for specimens already in institutions, however, since many herbaria already post data and sometimes photographs of the collections they house, and contribute those data to GBIF. There would also be the issue of having one’s personal iNat user copyright applied to a specimen owned by the institution. And especially if it was collected by someone else, it would not reflect one’s personal encounter with an organism in nature.


There are many observations on the site of this already in other forms, though…

I started a family herbarium, and I posted many of the observations to iNat from the field before I collected them. I agree with @jdmore : Post them if you have accurate date/time/location information on them, otherwise it’s best to refrain rather than guess.

Of course, if Emily Dickinson were still alive, she would probably post her herbarium to iNat!


As someone who scans manuscripts for online use for a living, that link (and the quality of those scans!) make me very happy :)


i’ve posted a bunch of my own pressed plants. I was part of a project to help digitize and add to iNat a small college herbarium that was going to ve thrown away. Unfortunately covid stalled that out and i never finished adding them


Yes, and someone needs to go and mark all those 1940s museum specimens, it’s really weird what some people think iNat is and for some reason are not using GBIF directly.

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Of course, you should post your personal herbarium scans here. Or your nearest local botanical garden (as @vbe01 said). Especially rare plants. For science, this will be a simple, obvious and great benefit.

Always sad to hear about those situations. I guess there was no larger regional herbarium able/willing to take the collection?

The copyright is in the photograph, not in the original specimen, which is not copyrightable, at least under North American law. So, unless the photo is of the herbarium’s own photo, there should be no copyright issues.


i don’t know if it ended up going that way or not, since covid happened i haven’t really been involved

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All I know is that herbaria sometimes assert intellectual property rights over their specimens and metadata. Don’t know that it matters who photographs them, transcribes the data, etc.


It’s a good idea; I have to do this with my collection.

Intellectual property does not necessarily equal copyright materials. IP can include trademark, patent, and a few more obscure legal concepts.

If you have a date and accurate location, they are acceptable observations.

It sounds very similar to someone going through their old photos before they were iNat members and entering them as observations (I did this both for iNat and eBird.)


Thanks all for the suggestions. I should mention these were not usual herbarium-size pressed specimens. For reasons of storage space, I mounted them on 5 inch X 8 inch file cards that could be stored in file boxes. I had a mini-press for a while that used standard 3 inch X 5 inch file cards and that could be easily carried in a backpack, but that press size was just too small for many specimens. My talented wife actually built me a standard-size herbarium press that I used in later years.

Locations are descriptive but fairly accurate; most were collected before GPS was available to the average person.

Here are a couple more examples I posted a while back:


There are many reasons pressed herbarium specimens are important. The primary is the long lived record that may be examined in ever finer detail by future generations of botanists. As I sit at my desk with several thousand specimens behind me that I have collected over the decades I find I have no interest in looking at them. In many ways a digital image is much inferior to a herbarium collection. Yet, I find it an exciting tool to see the plant in much greater detail with a digital camera.

Many plants are known by the fine detail of their anatomy. The digital image has been a wonderful tool to see this detail and obtain an understanding of the terminology found in most floristic keys. The color of the living plant is often lost with pressing, yet this color often provides important clues to the identity of the specimen.

I see the primary challenge of photography as that of obtaining diagnostic images. An iNaturalist observation is a communication with other observers. This communication is about identity, both the taxon and what identifies the taxon…

I recently review a type specimen online. This gave me an understanding of the taxon. The search to find and photograph this taxon in the field has been both a challenge and informative. It does not matter if the observation is a pressed specimen or a field observation both should be undertaken to provide information and to communicate.

If your collection is generally the same quality as the one you posted (though specimens usually need some kind of reproductive material – flowers or fruits), then a nearby herbarium may be able to take it in. You would probably need to make proper labels, and you could ask if they would take unmounted material.