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Herbarium FAQs

Q: Where do the specimens come from?
A: Almost all of the Herbarium's specimens have been collected in the wild. The primary geographic focus of the collections is the Pacific Northwest. The secondary focus is western North America outside of the Pacific Northwest, and also the northern Pacific Rim (e.g., northeastern Russia).

Q: How are the Herbarium's specimens used?
A: Herbarium specimens are used for systematics (the study of evolutionary relationships), floristics (the study of species' distributions over space and time), and conservation research.

Q: Why are the Herbarium's specimens important?
A: Because specimens have been deposited in the Herbarium's collections from the late 1800s to the present, they represent a running catalog of the region's biodiversity, especially that of Washington State. Specimens also serve as permanent evidence that a particular species occurred at a particular place at a particular time.

Q: Who uses the Herbarium's specimens?
A: The primary users of the Herbarium's specimens are researchers on campus and at other universities and museums worldwide. Researchers either visit the Herbarium, or the specimens they need are sent to them on loan.

Q: How does the public benefit from the Herbarium's collections?
A: Field guides rely on herbarium specimens to provide scientific names, general descriptions of what a fungus or plant looks likes, and where a species can be found. If the field guide authors had to do this on their own in the field, they would never finish their books!

Q: Is the Herbarium open to the public?
A: Yes! The Herbarium is open weekdays: Mon.-Thu., 8 am-5 pm; Fri. by appointment only. First-time visitors must set up a time in advance of their visit in order to receive a brief orientation to the collections organization and their use

Q: Does the Herbarium grow plants or emphasize species with herbal uses?
A: No. The UW Greenhouse is the facility on campus that grows plants and is open to the public. The Medicinal Herb Garden is located on the southwest part of the UW campus and has an outstanding collection of labeled plants displayed in garden beds. The Medicinal Herb Garden is also free and open to the public.