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Plant collecting involves procuring live or dried plant specimens, for the purposes of research, cultivation or as a hobby.

Collection of live specimens

The collection of live plant specimens from the wild, sometimes referred to as plant hunting, is an activity that has occurred for centuries. The earliest recorded evidence of plant hunting was in 1495 BC when botanists were sent to Somaliamarker to collect incense trees for Queen Hatshepsut. The Victorian era saw a surge in plant hunting activity as botanical adventurers explored the world to find exotic plants to bring home, often at considerable personal risk. These plants usually ended up in botanical gardens or the private gardens of wealthy collectors. Prolific plant hunters in this period included William Lobb and his brother Thomas Lobb, George Forrest, Joseph Hooker, Charles Maries and Robert Fortune.

Collection of herbarium specimens

Herbarium specimens of plants are collected for a number of different uses. They can assist in accurate identification and provide a species record for a time and place that can be utilised in distribution maps. They can also provide biological material for researchers, a reference point to document scientific names and vouchers for research and seed collections.

Plant collecting as a hobby

Plant collecting may also refer to a hobby, in which the hobbyist takes identifiable samples of plant species found in nature, dries them, and stores them in a paper sheet album, a simple herbarium, alongside with the information of the finding location, finding date, etc. necessary scientific information. As in many collecting hobbies, rarer specimens have been valued. However, when collecting living organisms, the conservation aspects must precede the collector's ambitions. This has led in some cases to a collector voluntarily taking part, helping scientists, in some research areas, provided he can store the "collectible". In fact, historically, many species have initially been found within a collection of a collector.

Usually, a plant can be identified in nature, since they are stationary.The advent of digital cameras has led many plant collectors to switch totally to photography. Some have switched to collecting live specimens of various plant species in their gardens, building a sort of "private botanical garden". Some have specialized in a specific group, the orchids and the roses and their cultivars are among the most collected.


Plant "discovery" means the first time that a new plant was recorded for science, often in the form of dried and pressed plants (a herbarium specimen) being sent to a botanical establishment such as Kew Gardensmarker in London, where it would be examined, classified and named.

Plant "introduction" means the first time that living matter – seed, cuttings or a whole plant – was brought back to Europe. Thus, the Handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata) was discovered by Père David in 1869 but introduced to Britain by Ernest Wilson in 1901.

Often, the two happened simultaneously: thus Sir Joseph Hooker discovered and introduced his Himalayan rhododendrons between 1849 and 1851.

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