Geranium maculatum L.
With the use of computer technology, the mission of the herbarium of the University of the South is currently being expanded beyond the traditional herbarium role. While the acquisition and maintenance of a plant collection continues, computer databases for species distribution information are being developed. These will create a "living herbarium" of plant species indigenous to Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, and Marion counties of Tennessee. The databases, accessible through the World Wide Web, document a wide variety of information about these plants: ecological, phenological, morphological, taxonomic, and conservation-related.
An Unique Role
The herbarium is a way for people to connect with the biodiversity with which they live, using the latest technology to keep track of plant diversity and making it accessible to planners, academicians, and other interested people. This has begun along several fronts:
- Botanists working at the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) are using the herbarium for storing their specimens. This mutualistic relationship is benefiting both AEDC and the University of the South. Located on the Highland Rim, AEDC's vegetation is quite different from that of the southeastern Cumberland Plateau where the University is located.
- The Land Use Planning Commission of Franklin County is accessing the databases for information on biodiversity within the county.
- There is interaction between Tennessee botanists, both professional and amateur, and the University. The databases serve to chronicle known information about rare and other significant plant distributions in the four-county area.