Kent Ethnobotanical Herbarium

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Photo by Igor Wang on Unsplash

Kent Ethnobotanical Herbarium

The Kent Ethnobotanical Herbarium is a collection of plant specimens held in the Ethnobiology Lab at the Centre for Biocultural Diversity, and a searchable digital catalogue available here.

The KEH collection has been compiled by Ethnobotany MSc students as part of their training. Most specimens were collected in the area surrounding Canterbury in Kent. Each dried and pressed voucher specimen includes information on the plant’s morphology, location and habitat, botanical and common names, and cultural significance. They are prepared in such a way as to preserve them for a very long time.

A voucher specimen is a representative sample of a plant species that is used for identification and as supporting evidence of information learned during the research process. Voucher specimens provide the evidence base for the biological classification system set up by Carl Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae (1735). New vouchers are compared to the existing reference collection in order to identify them, usually by expert taxonomists at a Museum or Herbarium.

In Ethnobotany, we use vouchers for several reasons, primarily to correlate vernacular names for plants used everyday by people with corresponding Latin names used in Linnean botanical classification. However, establishing correspondences between local vernacular and scientific categories is seldom straightforward.  If made though, these correspondences can open up a global database of information about a plant, which can then facilitate comparative studies of plant use among peoples speaking different languages and having different cultural traditions. Scientific analyses of plant constituents, physiology and ecology can also be discovered. Once prepared, voucher specimens can also be used as a prompt in interviews on people-plant relationships, which is especially useful when plants are not available to view or participants are unable to travel to see them in situ.

The searchable KEH digital database includes botanical and ethnobotanical information and a photograph. The KEH is now listed on the Index Herbariorum at the New York Botanical Garden, as UKC.

We thank all our former Ethnobotany MSc students for their fine work in producing the vouchers, and Mercy Morris and Filippo Zeffiri for creating the herbarium, compiling the database and taking the photographs. Thanks to Allen Tullet, at Kent’s Web and Learning Development group, for building the website, and Kent’s Division of Human and Social Sciences and the School of Anthropology and Conservation for funding the project.

For more information, contact Dr Raj Puri (R.K.Puri at Convenor of the Ethnobotany MSc Programme.


Links to Other Herbarium Databases

Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

New York Botanical Garden Herbarium, New York

Herbarium at Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University

Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium, St Louis

Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands

Plants of the World Online

Global Biodiversity Information Facility