August 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 14)
Strong Points: A large number of catalogs, diverse speimen data
Weak Points: Difficult to browse collections, cannot search for specific types of data
The warm summer weather invites us to go outdoors where one can spend hours admiring blooming flowers and trees in the park. But, if allergies keep you homebound, you can spend your time perusing the pollen-free plants of the New York Botanical Garden’s C.V. Starr Virtual Herbarium. Geared toward researchers, as opposed to people who simply enjoy looking at photos of pretty plants, the Virtual Herbarium contains a large collection of specimen data for scientific use. Organized into various specimen catalogs, data contained with the Virtual Herbarium includes geographical information, specimen and habitat description, and images, among other things. There are many different databases and links to explore, though a word of warning: some pages contain much more information than others. Also, it is a bit frustrating if you are an “I just want to browse the database” type of person, as the “search” feature is the only option in many cases.