Biological Sciences Department
Index Herbariourm
What is a herbarium? A herbarium is a library of pressed and dried plant specimens. Each specimen is identified by scientific name and labeled with collection data (date, location, collector name).
How are specimens used?

Properly maintained specimens can last for hundreds of years, and are used for research and teaching. Specimens provide data on species distributions, amount of variability within a species, flowering and fruiting times, and plant locations. This data can be used to generate identification keys, for plant descriptions, and for preparing range maps. If you have used a wildflower guide, you've used information originally taken from herbarium specimens.

Herbarium specimens also provide a great resource for plant identification, as they allow you to verify your ID by comparing a tentatively identified plant to known specimens of the species in question.

Herbaria in Kentucky: The official acronym for the Northern Kentucky University herbarium is KNK. This is used as an identifying mark on our plant specimens and for citing our herbarium and individual specimens in scientific papers. Acronyms are assigned by the Index Herbariorum project, which is a database of the 3000+ public herbaria worldwide. Though NKU is the obvious acronym for the Northern Kentucky University herbarium, it was assigned to the Nankai University Herbarium in China before Northern registered with the Index.

In Kentucky, there are seven other public herbaria specializing in vascular plants. These include Berea College (BEREA), University of Louisville (DHL), Eastern Kentucky University (EKY), University of Kentucky (KY), Morehead State University (MDKY), Murray State University (MUR), and Western Kentucky University (WKU).

About KNK: The John W. Thieret Herbarium was founded in 1973 and now has over 35,000 specimens. The collections focus on plants from the Middle West but specimens from other parts of the country (especially the Great Basin and the Great Plains) and from the Canadian arctic are available. Cyperaceae (the sedges; especially Carex) and Poaceae (the grasses) are particularly well-represented families.

Teaching: Botany courses offered at NKU include General Botany and Dendrology. Herbarium specimens are often used as teaching aids, especially in courses involving plant identification.

Research: Specimens are loaned to researchers at various institutions, and specimen data from KNK has been used for such projects as the Flora of North America and the Kentucky Woody Plant Survey.

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