BOOK REVIEW: Herbarium, by Barbara M Thiers

I started a new job in a greenhouse recently and one of the first things my new co-worker and I chatted about were our respective herbariums. She was so proud of her samples (rightfully so!) that she had brought them with her across the province and mounted them on the wall of her new apartment. Mine don’t have the same prominent location in my home, but 10 years after graduating college I do still have my collection scanned for quick digital reference, as well as the originals pressed and mounted in my bookshelf.

Herbarium by Barbara M. Thiers is THE book for horticulturalists and plant enthusiasts as passionate about herbarium collections as my co-worker and I are (I might get it for her birthday, shh!) Packed with high quality full colour replications of a wide variety of plant collections, I expected this to be an image-heavy “coffee table book” so I was surprised to find it dense with well-researched information. Starting from the earliest history of documented plant collections, and ending with modern collections today, Barbara has amassed an exhaustive review of Herbarium across the world. Overseeing the largest Herbarium in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world, Barbara M. Thiers experience at the New York Botanical Garden’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium is clearly evident in the immaculately researched content of this book. Reading like a textbook but visually more akin to a museum exhibit this collection of research and visuals was an engaging, educating read.

Plant collection has always been tied to colonialism and as such this book does skew Euro-centric, like another goodreads reviewer mentioned, I would like to see more information on the Indigenous names and uses of plants. While I’m sure they might not be “traditional” (aka Western) herbarium collections, I would love to learn more about alternative types of plant collections and documentation methods.

I would absolutely recommend this book for any plant nerd, and although I have only seen the digital copy, I would wager it would make an impressive gift for a horticultural or natural science enthusiast.

*thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC