Mexico's green museum, the National Herbarium

This collection is the biggest of its kind in Latin-America

Mexico's green museum, the National Herbarium
An aquatic flower at the MEXU - Photo: German Espinosa/EL UNIVERSAL
English 26/08/2018 15:21 Leonardo Domínguez Mexico City Actualizada 19:52
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Thousands of leaves of the plants in Mexico's National Herbarium (MEXU) date back to the colonial period, the Independence and the Revolution. This scientific collection is the biggest of its kind in Latin-America, and it contains 1,300,000 specimens.

The collection is guarded by the UNAM, through its Biology Institute, and it guards, mostly, vascular plants, bryophytes, mushrooms, lichens, and seaweed, with the purpose of “generating knowledge about the national vegetation system and look to understand the evolution of the different groups”, explains, Marth Olvera, an academic from the MEXU.

One of the oldest specimens is the Opuntia velutina F.A.C Weber, from 1791. It also contains endangered species like the Lemna trisulca L., an aquatic plant with one of the smallest flowers found in nature.

Olvera explains that at the MEXU they carry out taxonomy projects: the description of new species, family and genre reviews, biotic inventories, and phylogenetic studies. She says that herbarium is like a databank and that it's open to everyone.

It was created in 1929, and it possesses the biggest Mexican plants collection.

The MEXU also collaborates on international projects. Since 1980, it has participated in a project to research and catalog the Mesoamerican plant life, in collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Natural History Museum in London. It will also publish the first regional Plant life in Spanish, its goal is to describe all the vascular plants found in southern Mexico, including the Yucatán Peninsula, and other Central America countries.

23% of its collection comes from exchanges, as it maintains agreements with over 150 national and international institutions.

The National Herbarium began digitizing its material in 2004, and 100% of it has been published online, although they are constantly updating it.

Technicians from the MEXU explain that they incorporate over 2,500 new specimens to the collection every month, 25,000 a year. Nevertheless, they say there is a lot of work left to do and regions to explore.


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