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Collaborating for Belize's National Herbarium

Mounting specimens

A herbarium can be thought of as a library but instead of books it is stocked with carefully preserved plants containing detailed information on taxonomic classification, ecology and habitat among other things.

Belize’s National Herbarium (BRH) is housed at the Forest Department office in Belmopan and boasts over 12,000 specimens in its general collection. This amounts to approximately 200 families, 1,000 genera and 2,700 species; the most comprehensive representation of Belizean flora in the country.

The herbarium’s general collection has been growing since its establishment in 1982. However, unlike other herbariums, the BRH lacks permanent staff and thus has been dependent on the contributions of various efforts such as the most recent “BRH Epiphyte Mounting and Databasing Project”. The project focused on tackling the backlog of unmounted specimens repatriated by visiting researchers with particular focus on epiphytes.

One of many mounting tables

Over the course of a week, approximately 550 epiphyte specimens were mounted and databased for addition to the herbarium’s general collection. An additional 3000+ unmounted specimens were sorted and organized for eventual addition to the collection. This was all done with the support of a group of staff and volunteers from the Caves Branch Botanical Garden (CBBG), Marie Selby Botanical Garden (MSBG), UB ERI and the Belize Forest Department. This collaborative effort stems from ongoing work to better understand Belize’s epiphytic plant diversity and highlights the significance of collaboration.

"It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

We are ever grateful for the efforts of everyone involved especially Ella Baron of the CBBG and Bruce Holst of the MSBG for spearheading this effort.

Dr. Elma Kay (UB ERI) and German Lopez (FD) with group from MSBG

Big thanks goes out to Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch for hosting the volunteers and the MSBG for donating a generous supply of materials to continue our mounting and databasing efforts.

Interested in helping to develop our national herbarium? We can provide the necessary training. Email Forest Biologist, Denver Cayetano at for more information.

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