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Spirit Collection


The Spirit Collection contains approximately 35,000 vials of flowers and other plant parts in preservative fluids making it the largest such collection in the western hemisphere and second largest in the world (after Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, U.K.). The Selby Gardens collection numbers with nearly 33,000 vials of the orchid family (Orchidaceae); 2000 vials of gesneriads (Gesneriaceae); and 300 vials of bromeliads (Bromeliaceae). The preservative fluid has 70 parts denatured alcohol, 27 parts water, and 3 parts glycerin.

The collection contains important specimens prepared by G.C.K. Dunsterville, Carlyle A. Luer, Calaway Dodson, Alexander Hirtz, Rodrigo Escobar, and Alexander Hirtz. Significant new additions (since 2006) to the collection are from Katherine Gregg (Catasetiinae) and Leslie Garay, providing several thousand new specimens. The spirit collection includes many type specimens.

The Gardens, with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF DBI-0138615), completed a project in 2004 to extend the lifetime of the Spirit Collection. The work included replacement of trays, vials, metal caps, and liners. To improve inventory and tracking of the collection, a bar code was applied to each vial.

Spirit-Coll-shelfPlant specimens in fluids (spirits) preserve flowers in a 3-dimensional, close-to-nature form. Spirit collections thus complement dried, pressed specimens that provide only a 2-dimensional view. The Spirit Collection has special reference value for taxonomists who identify plant species and name new ones, and serves as a repository for voucher specimens. Vouchers are designated by researchers in their publications and placed in a recognized herbarium to serve as a permanent reference to their work. Although dried flowers can be rehydrated, they do not always regain their natural shape and the process shortens the life of a herbarium specimen.

The Spirit Collection is available for consultation by all qualified researchers.
For more information, please contact us.

Curation of the Spirit Collection was made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF DBI-0138615).