Transcription Counts: A summary of recent efforts on the Plants of Arkansas Project

The Plants of Arkansas: skeletal records for our southernmost herbarium four-part expedition started on July 16, 2019 and completed August 30, 2020. Over 13.5 months, the Notes from Nature community transcribed 27,597 skeletal records from the University of Arkansas – Monticello herbarium (UAM). These skeletal records included data about the higher geography (country, state, county), scientific name, collector name(s), collector number, and collection date. Here is a summary of what we learned about the herbarium specimen holdings at UAM.

Higher Geography

Specimens at UAM were collected from 19 different countries, but the majority of specimens (99.5%) were collected from the United States. The second highest specimen count per country in the collection was Mexico with 50 specimens. Many countries have a single specimen collected, including the Bahamas, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Ireland, Micronesia, Morocco, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

Within the United States, the UAM collection includes specimens from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Over 63% of the specimens from the United States were collected in Arkansas, and the second highest specimen count per US state in the collection was Louisiana with 7.8%.

Specimens were collected from all 75 Arkansas counties. Attached is a map of Arkansas counties with the name of each county and number of specimens transcribed by county for the UAM collection. County shading indicates how many specimens were collected by county, with counties in lighter grays having fewer specimens collected and counties in darker grays having more specimens collected.

Taxonomy

The UAM collection has 4860 species (5472 total taxa when including subspecies and varieties) across 1378 genera and 214 families. Only four families have >1000 specimens; the families with the most specimens include Asteraceae (composites, the sunflower family, 11.6%), Poaceae (grasses, 6.9%), Fabaceae (the bean family, 6.4%), and Cyperaceae (sedges, 4%). There are 57 families with over 100 specimens each, which can be seen in this graph organized by decreasing number of specimens by family from left to right:

Collection Timeline

The UAM herbarium was founded by Dr. Eric Sundell in 1980. The oldest specimen in the UAM collection was collected in 1895 and the most recent in 2011. Most specimens were collected while Dr. Sundell was the curator in the 1980s and 1990s:

That’s the summary I have for now! We’ll continue to learn more about this collection as we transcribe the locality, habitat, and other herbarium database fields directly in SERNEC. Next week, we’ll hear from the current UAM curator, Dr. Richard Abbott, about his reaction to the UAM collection summary, how he will use the collection in teaching, and what he wants his students to learn with this museum-quality resource.

Diana Soteropoulos, Botanist / Arkansas Herbarium Digitization Coordinator

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