Thoreau’s 200th birthday brings gift for botanists

Friday, July 7, 2017 - 11:02 in Paleontology & Archaeology

Henry David Thoreau wandered the forests and fields around his home in Concord, making the observations that brought him fame. He also collected specimens of the plants he found there, preserving about 820 for identification and study. That collection, which today resides in the Harvard University Herbaria, is something of a botanical time machine. In combination with the naturalist’s extensive notes about when and where they were collected, the specimens can provide insight about the changes between Thoreau’s time and now. “They were his personal herbarium that he was using to make identifications and to record and document the flora of the Concord region,” said Charles Davis, a professor of organismic and evolutionary biology and director of the Harvard University Herbaria. In honor of Thoreau’s 200th birthday, on July 12, hundreds of new images of his specimens, along with the data associated with them, will be posted online, part of a larger effort...

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