Introducing Herbaria 3.0

“Every species has a narrative of its own, a biography. The loss of a species is not just one lower point on a graph of biodiversity, it is also the loss of a unique story.”
– Richard Fortey, 2012.

Plants are everywhere, and everyone has a story to tell about a plant.

We are excited to introduce Herbaria 3.0, a collaborative, digital environmental humanities project, that offers a platform for sharing the stories of plants and people. Herbaria 3.0 explores how the stories we tell about plants illuminate the intertwined nature of humans and plants.

We believe that such storytelling fosters sustained engagement with the green world. It also acts as a counter to ‘plant blindness’, or the inability to see the plants around us in our everyday lives. Over time, this condition renders us insensitive to both the autonomous lives of plants and to the deeply textured sociocultural history of plant-human interactions. Accordingly, if we can’t see the plants that are around us everyday – the trees that shade sidewalks, the lavender that feeds bees, the houseplant that has crawled across the windowpane – we also can’t see that plants are essential to our everyday lives in both material and non-material ways. Perhaps most significantly, though, our inability to see plants locally renders us blind to the significant consequences of human action on plant communities globally.

Herbaria 3.0

Where can a plant take you?

Visit herbaria3.org or Nonna’s garden to listen to / read a story from the site.

Why Herbaria 3.0?

Just as stories have always served people as a way to make and keep connections alive, plants have a long history of connecting people through time and space, often through the sharing of herbarium specimens. Herbaria are collections of dried plant specimens that originated in Renaissance Italy to document medicinal plants; these constitute the ‘1.0’ we refer to. An herbarium sheet preserves an individual plant’s roots, leaves, and flowers; because such specimens are collected by humans in particular times and places, herbaria also detail a long and often complicated history of plant-human interaction.

Zephyranthes treatiae. Collected by Mary Treat in 1877 in the St. Johns River in Florida. Treat had a hard time convincing her correspondents at Harvard University that she had discovered a new species. After they finally agreed, Harvard professor Sereno Watson named the plant for her in 1878.
(Gray Herbarium, Harvard University)

The word ‘herbaria’ also refers to the places – libraries – where these specimens are kept; these are the ‘2.0’ of our project. Together both the specimens and the archiving of them are a visual, tactile, and material repository of plant-human interactions.

The ‘3.0’ of our project signals a connection to the past and a rebooting of herbaria for the future: to collect, share, and archive modern human-plant encounters that reflect the global movements of plants and people.

Herbaria 3.0 emerged as a collaborative effort of environmental humanities scholars, scholars of science pedagogy, and plant biologists, to contemplate the role and meaning of plants in an era of rapid climate change and species displacement.  Dr. Tina Gianquitto (Colorado School of Mines, Colorado, USA) and Dr. Dawn Sanders (Gothenburg University, Sweden) lead a team that includes Dr. Lauren LaFauci, assistant professor in environmental humanities at Linköping University, Sweden; Dr. Maura Flannery, retired professor of botany at St. John’s University (New York, USA); and Terry Hodge, graduate student in horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (Madison, USA).

Herbaria 3.0 is open access and nonprofit. It has been generously funded by the Seed Box: A Mistra-Formas Environmental Humanities Collaboratory hosted at Linköping University, in Linköping, Sweden, with additional funding provided by the Division of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Colorado School of Mines, USA.  As one of the inaugural grant recipients of the Seed Box’s call for ‘seed money’, Herbaria 3.0 joins 15 other projects and over 40 scholars worldwide in advancing environmental humanities research of relevance to Sweden and beyond.

Tina Gianquitto, Dawn Sanders, Lauren LaFauci

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