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Monday 7 August 2023

Research Day - WP Fraser Herbarium

Last month, when I met with Ken Van Rees, he told me about OUR herbarium he uses at the University of Saskatchewan. (I mean, of course we would have one. Why hadn't I thought of searching for that?) So I found it online: The W P Fraser Herbarium. There is a virtual visual catalogue of endangered, at risk, and extirpated plants in my province. That's all that's available for online viewing. That's awesome. But I wanted to see more, so I emailed them with questions.

The response I got back was so wonderful. Hugo, the head of the Herbarium invited me to visit. In his absence (summer travels), his assistant Denver graciously set up a time for me to come in with my son to see the space, the plants, the library and collect specific lists.

The library is absolutely massive and global.

Oh! The library. SWOON. There are three shelves the run the entire length of the Herbarium and they are LOADED with all types of reference books imaginable: Water plants. Poisons. Medicines. A series of what looked like 'ancient' encyclopedias entitled Vascular Plants of USSR. Fungi of Boreal Forests. Food Plants. Flora of the Great Plains. Catalogue of New World Grasses. Out of print books in languages from around the world. Brand new publications. A thesis with Cree names for plants in Canada. 

And then there's the specimens. 170,000 I think I was told?

This is before you enter the Herbarium collection.

I'm not sure, but I think those were waiting to be catalogued. I could be wrong. Here I am with Denver as he shows me Herbarium samples in the storage facilities.

I had so many questions. He was so generous with his time and information. He took out some samples for me and explained how they were mounted. He instructed me as to how to handle them properly (always face up, do not flip over like pages of a book).

Photographing samples (my boy photographing me)

Isn't this beautiful!? I love the pattern. Some specimens had three leaves. Some had five. This one had four. They were all the same plant. One was dated from far enough back that it said it was collected from the town of Sutherland, Saskatchewan which is now an area within Saskatoon, east of the University.

W P Fraser Herbarium collection

I asked if I could sit and sketch. "Go right ahead!" (yay!!) So I did. I sketched a few blind contour drawings of this lovely plant with my non-dominant hand. I feel like it's committed to memory now.

Back at home, I checked my email and there was a thank you message from the Herbarium with loads of links to useful PDFs that were specific to my questions. I feel like I hit the jackpot! Denver also let me know of a really amazing website I want to share with you.

WOW - it's amazing. Thank you Denver! As for the Fraser Herbarium, it is not open to the public per se. You simply need to contact them to request a tour or visit.

Happy August Long!
xo Monika K.


Lin said...

What a wonderful opportunity Monika and an amazing collection. I have the iNaturalist app on my phone which is brilliant for identifying plants, butterflies etc xx

Anonymous said...

(This is Monika.) Yes!! He sent me the iNaturalist link to the plant I drew, and up popped all these people's photos with the locations the pictures were taken on a visual map. Brilliant resource.

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