Submitting Plant Records for a County

Question for all you more advanced botanists/naturalists: What’s the process of submitting new county records for plant species?

I’m working on massive restoration project in an area of north Texas that has been poorly documented and heavily farmed. I’m no expert plant taxonomist/botanist but have found and confirmed some sedges that are new to the area just within a few years of restoration commencement. As the project matures I’d love to use it as a way to expand regional data on species I collect.

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Well, for one, what reference are you using to decide if the species is new to the county? Some floras are outdated or don’t use all the online biodiversity collection data such as idigbio that works to make all herbaria collection databases available online. This means that many times, when we think we have a new record, it usually just means we haven’t looked at the right flora. That being said, there are many plants that are adapting to our changing climate and find themselves in new counties which weren’t there previously, or it could be a plant that has been in the county for thousands of years but our lack of statewide field collection has neglected to find it. Either way, it’s very important that new county records are properly collected and documented.

The best way to truly submit this information for permanent records is to add collections/samples of the species to a working herbarium. I personally have worked in the S.M. Tracy Herbarium at Texas A&M for several years and they are always happy to take in new collections, especially new county records. Most herbariums will then add these specimens to their permanent physical collection and also add the information to their online databases. If you’d like to discuss this more feel free to call/text/email at 254-477-3213 or austin.kelly@aggienetwork.com

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Welcome to the Forum, @austinrkelly :)

@austinrkelly Thanks for the response - some follow-up questions:
What other resources besides iDigBio can I check? According to that site I have at least two county records and a state record which I find hard to believe.
When submitting to a herbarium, what information should be included? Pressed plant, coordinates, date, collector name, county, description of habitat… anything else?
How do I submit specimens? Mail or hand delivery or either?

It often can be difficult to determine if a particular plant is known for a county or not. While online resources such as BONAP, iDigBio and SEINET can be helpful, they are not always completely accurate and not all herbarium records are accessible online. For north Texas, I would consider contacting the folks at BRIT (Botanical Research Institute of Texas) for assistance. Last time I checked they also had helpful articles for various parts of the plant collection process. You might also try checking the online records of the UT herbarium (Plant Resources Center) as I cannot remember if they are indexed by the other resources, though for a difficult group like sedges, you might have to take the IDs with a grain of salt. Probably the most definitive way to determine if a plant has been found in a county is to examine the original research on the genus and hope that they provide a list of counties where the plant is found, but this requires considerably more research and work.

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Submitting to an herbarium should be the easiest and among the most public-facing parts of a university science department, but it’s, unfortunately, mired in obscurity and (often) the air of elitism. I reached out to my local university herbarium and they eventually gave me some PDFs with instructions, standards, and best practices.

I still haven’t submitted anything, even though I’ve found several specimens that are new-to-range, just because of the equipment and preparation required. Someday, hopefully.

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