Unlocking observational data from the African Herbarium of the Botanic Garden Meise

digitizing a million samples...

The Herbarium Africanum of the Botanic Garden Meise houses about 1 million specimens from Sub-Saharan Africa, including the islands in the western Indian Ocean such as Madagascar and the Mascarenes. The main focus is on Central Africa (Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) but good afro-tropical coverage is attempted.

With ca. 500.000 specimens form Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, it reflects Belgium’s long-standing interest in this region. Famous collectors include inter alia Emile Laurent, Camille Vermoesen, Jean Lebrun and Jean Louis. Jean Louis collected between 1934 and 1939 17,000 herbarium samples which are of an exceptional high quality and they are probably the best documented collections ever made in Central Africa.

In 2015, with the financial support of the Flemish Governement the mass digitisation of the African (and Belgian) Herbarium of the herbarium of Botanic Garden Meise (DOE! Project). This project aims to digitise 1.2 million specimens (the complete African and Belgian herbarium) within three years and to make the data and images available on a new virtual herbarium by spring 2018. In the COBECORE project we aim to go a step further by unlocking morphological data by measuring plant functional traits of African tropical tree species (Fig. 1) and making them available to the scientific community. These data will allow scientist to study and understand better the relationship between climate and plant traits in the past, present and future.

Fig 1. - Specimen of Prioria oxyphylla from the herbarium of the Botanic Garden Meise.

digitization herbarium Botanical_Garden_Meise