How to Prepare an Acceptable Specimen Label

Specimens acceptable for deposit at the University of Arizona Herbarium should be accompanied by a label or other description containing the information shown below. If you are submitting only a few specimens, we recommend you use our specimen information form, available in doc and pdf formats.

Required information is underlined in bold. In most cases we cannot accept specimens unless this information is included.

  • Determination (=identification): The scientific name of the plant. If you do not know the species, it is acceptable to include only the genus or only family. The specimen can always be re-determined later (and usually will). Having a completely accurate determination is much less important than providing a complete locality description.
  • Collector. Indicate one and only one (primary) collector. Other people who assisted in collecting the specimen should go under "Other collectors"
  • Collection number. The combination of collector name + collection number uniquely identifies a specimen. Once deposited at the herbarium, a specimen becomes public property, and may be cited in taxonomic works, distributional studies, etc. Therefore it is imperative that each specimen be clearly identifiable by means of a collector and number. Specimens without numbers are ambiguous, easily confused with other specimens, and difficult to manage in databases. While you may use whatever numbering system you wish (as long as each specimen receives a unique number), we strongly recommend you use simple consecutive numbers (e.g., 1, 2, 3. . . and so on, throughout your entire collecting life). Hyphenated numbers (typically, a 2 digit year followed by a hyphen and a second number to indicate sequence; e.g., 97-12, 97-13, 97-14....), while convenient for the collector, cause numerous problems in specimen databases. Remember: all our specimens will eventually be databased. Use consecutive numbers.
  • Other collectors. Individuals other than the primary collector who assisted in collecting the specimen or otherwise wish to be acknowledged. Optional.
  • Collection date: A single date is preferable to a range of dates.
  • Collection locality. We cannot accept specimens without a clear locality description. All specimens will eventually be entered in our database. Determining lat/long for incomplete locality descriptions is very time consuming and prone to error. Below is a list of the main elements of a complete collection locality:
    • Political divisions. At a minimum, you should provide three levels: Country, State/Province, County/Municipio, etc. (Example 1: "USA, Arizona, Pima County.". Example 2: "Mexico, Sonora, Municipio de Santa Cruz.")
    • Locality description. Provide specific directions to where the plant was collected. Be brief but accurate. (Example 1: "S of Safford, off Tanque Road, ca. 2.2 road miles E of junction with state highway 191". Example 2: "Coronado National Forest, Catalina District, Mt. Lemmon. Romero Canyon Trail (TR8), 350 m downhill (S) from junction with Sutherland Trail (TR6)."
    • Habitat description. (Optional but recommended). Keep it short; use a standard description if possible (e.g., the US National Vegetation Classification), if not, some more vernacular vegetation type is still useful (e.g., desert, pinyon-juniper woodland, mixed coniferous forest). Optionally, you may want to list other taxa present if these help identify the type of vegetation (e.g., Pinus ponderosa, Quercus hypoleucoides).
    • Latitude and longitude: You can provide this in either degrees, minutes, seconds format, decimal degrees, or UTM. Township and range may be indicated, but only in addition to the previously-mentioned units. As well, (but optional), we recommend you indicate how you obtained the measurement (GPS, estimated from map, estimated using Google Earth, etc.), and if you know it, the datum used (e.g., WGS84) and some indication of precision. Note that with the advent of Google Earth, there is no longer any excuse for not indicating geographic coordinates, even if you don't own a GPS!
    • Elevation: Either feet or meters, as long as you indicate which. As with geocoordinates, we recommend (optionally) that you indicate how you obtained the measurement (e.g., topographic map, altimeter, GPS), and provide some measure of precision, if know. Although we prefer single measurements to ranges of elevations, our database can handle both.
  • Specimen description. Note attributes of the plant itself which cannot be observed from the dried specimen. For example, note flower color, odor, size, growth form. Also, attributes of the the species or population (e.g., common; rare; local, in clumps only; diocieous, monoecious; etc.). Do not note leaf arrangement, number of petals, number of stamens, etc., unless these characters are absent from the specimen, or can be observed only with difficulty.
  • Additional information: Local names, medicinal uses, etc. Also, voucher information (e.g., "Voucher, Forest plot 99-B; or "Voucher of plant sampled for DNA material, project 'Molecular Systematics of the Sencionae'; etc.) Obviously, whether or not you include this information will depend on why you collected the plant in the first place.

Other optional but recommended information:

  • Determiner: Your name, or the name of whoever provided the identification
  • Determination date: Date of the identification; year plus month is usually sufficient.
  • Determination reference: Potentially very useful if you identify the taxonomic reference used to identify the plant. Even the same name + authority can have radically different meanings according to different authors. While this information has rarely been provided in the past, it will soon become commonplace as more and more collections databases implement Concept Taxonomy (Example 1: "Kearney & Peebles 1951: Arizona Flora.". Example 2: "Kearney & Peebles, 1960 (with suppl): Arizona Flora").