Specimen of a species in the Pipewort family (Eriocaulaceae) collected in a flower market in São Paulo, Brazil in 1948. Natural flower color is white; other colors produced by dipping into artificial dyes. William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, NYBG, Barcode 2102749, and featured in Cabinet of Curiosities.
By Brian Boom
Vice President for Conservation Strategy, The New York Botanical Garden
Large biodiversity collections may often be thought of as drab and dusty affairs, but in fact they have many hidden, spectacular specimens that inspire us to celebrate these natural wonders through the arts and humanities. New online features and onsite events at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the coming weeks and months provide a way for one to be inspired by NYBG's preserved and living plant collections.
The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium at NYBG is the largest herbarium — a collection of preserved plant and fungal specimens — in the Western Hemisphere, currently with 7.8 million specimens and growing rapidly. A new portal to the Steere Herbarium’s online offerings through the C. V. Starr Virtual Herbarium is The Hand Lens, where one can explore the collections and the stories they tell like never before through sections entitled Expeditions, Collectors, Specimen Stories, and Cabinet of Curiosities including "Most Vibrant." Among the dozen-and-a-half other categories are such tantalizing ones as "Fetid Flowers," "Gross," "Insect Zombies," "Weird & Wild Legumes," and "Giant Puffball," so welcome to our Cabinet of Curiosities and prepare to be inspired!
Another fascinating initiative of the Steere Herbarium is the Endless Forms project, which is a collaboration of 17 U.S. herbaria in 11 states with the goal of digitizing the world's most interesting plants. The project takes its name from the conclusion of Charles Darwin's landmark 1859 book about evolution, On the Origin of Species: "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." Check online weekly to see the project curators’ selection for Specimen of the Week.
The other renowned plant collection at NYBG comprises more than one million living plants featured across our 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape in two glasshouses and 50 gardens and collections. A great way to experience a full range of biodiversity collections is to immerse yourself in the next major exhibition at NYBG, drawing from its herbarium, library, and living collections — Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx.
Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx, June 8, 2019 – September 29, 2019. Immerse yourself in lush gardens and vibrant art in this Garden-wide exhibition at NYBG.
Roberto Burle Marx (1909–94) was a force of nature in Brazil — through his bold landscapes, vibrant art, and passionate commitment to plant conservation. His powerful modernist vision produced thousands of gardens and landscapes, including the famous curving mosaic walkways at Copacabana Beach in Rio and the beautiful rooftop garden at Banco Safra in São Paulo. Feel his artistic energy and love of plants during our Garden-wide exhibition of lush gardens; paintings, drawings, and textiles; and the sights and sounds of Brazil that inspired his life and work.
Watch a video about Roberto Burle Marx and the exhibition, narrated by guest designer Raymond Jungles. Reserve your tickets to view the exhibition and to participate in Brazilian music and dance during the Opening Weekend Celebration, June 8-9, and the Artes Brasileiras! performing arts series on Saturday and Sundays during the run of the exhibition, June 8–September 29, 2019.
For more about NYBG's extensive permanent collections, a curated sampling was featured in the most recent edition of Garden News, providing another way to enjoy and learn about these sumptuous treasures. At NYBG you are invited to see plants, get to know plants, help save plants. And join us in spreading the #plantlove.