Above, a sample of specimens from the TWU Herbarium. Below, an electron micrograph of unusual pollen from native plants in the butterfly garden. (Photos courtesy of Camelia Maier)

TWU Herbarium is growing collection

A natural library on the Texas Woman’s Denton campus is providing valuable resources for various scientific projects as well as for educational activities and community outreach and service.

The TWU Herbarium contains approximately 1,200 specimens collected between 1903-1947 and more than 1,000 specimens collected by plant biology students since 2000. More than 2,000 are specimens of vascular plants belonging to 112 families and representing 83% of the plant families found in Texas.

Camelia Maier (Biology, Denton), director and curator, said the herbarium has acquired new specimens since The Dr. Bettye Myers Butterfly Garden was established on the campus, especially from the Carroll Abbott Memorial Wildflower Sanctuary area of the showcase garden by the Texas Pond. Seeds from the native plants in the butterfly gardens are being collected, and a database of pollen morphologies – some of which will be published for the first time – as well as a network of plant-pollinator relationships resulting from student research projects will become part of the herbarium collections.

“Pressed specimens, seed and pollen scanning electron micrographs will be available online after digitization of the herbarium by the end of the fall 2022 semester,” Maier said.

Maier received a grant from the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership to train student garden leaders who are contributing to the herbarium and to the outreach activities of the gardens.

Maier also serves as an institutional coordinator on a National Science Foundation grant that will be used for imaging, transcribing, and georeferencing specimens collected in Texas and Oklahoma. The grant was awarded to the Texas Oklahoma Regional Consortium of Herbaria (TORCH), of which the TWU Herbarium is part. Maier will direct all primary digitization tasks for the project.

What’s the significance of digitization work?

“The south-central US, consisting of the states of Oklahoma and Texas, sits at a major crossroads of North American ecological and biological diversity, thus serving as a key element for understanding continent-wide patterns of biome evolution,” Maier said. “Also, herbaria and natural history collections are well positioned for the analysis of global change and the resulting impacts on regional biota, past and present. The digitization of specimen from Oklahoma and Texas herbaria will enhance species and habitat conservation and management and contribute to wide-ranging applications in biodiversity science.

“The project will also contribute to a globally competitive STEM workforce through workshops and lectures for its digitization technicians and a mentored practical learning experience for 20 undergraduates during 10-week summer internship sessions,” she added.