Thursday, January 15, 2015

Michaux, here we go!

Patrick and I have finally started pawing through the Michaux specimens to make modern determinations. It's going to take us a while.

We've got nearly 3000 images in the collection, all from the Michaux Herbarium at the Jardin des Plantes. They're organized into 21 volumes. Each volume is divided into two parts. Each part - each folder in the herbarium - contains between 90 and 110 specimen sheets. They've already mostly been organized, but according to Linnaean taxonomy, and though many of them have sort of modern determinations, we have to double check them all. Some names have changed. ITIS is invaluable for keeping up with the twists and turns of nomenclature. (Thank you, federal government!)

At some point, I need to get the barcodes off the specimens into my database. Then we'll totally have our data linked to the physical specimens, and it will be possible to conclusively say which of our determinations goes with which dried plant on paper.

So, volume one - it starts with Plantaginaceae, the plantain family that includes some waterweeds, pulls in some Oleaceae, back to Plantaginaceae, into Acanthaceae, a few of the Lentibulariaceae, and then plunges into the massive mint family, Lamiaceae. Why mixed up like that? Because the Linnaean classification system groups most of this mass - almost everything in Volume 1, except for the first few - into Diandria Monogynia. By Michaux's lights, all of these plants were in the same family.

We've already found a bunch of Eurasian plants - more on that anon, as I organize the data further. We found a specimen of Dicliptera sexangularis (1:30), commonly called sixangle foldwing, which only occurs in Florida. Presumably Michaux collected it during his voyages in Florida, which I hope to learn about from the book André Michaux in Florida.

Clearly I'm also going to have to read Michaux's diary in some loving detail; an English translation is online, but I need to find the French one. The specimens come from all over the place - Trois Rivières in Canada, Hudson Bay, Lake Mistassini, Carolina, Kentucky, presumably Florida. It must have been an adventure collecting them all!