Thursday, September 1, 2011


"It seems that we must be content to attribute the belated origin of herbaria, and their diffusion from a single centre, to the humiliating fact that amongst mankind the inventive spirit is rare, while the spirit of imitation is universal."

Agnes Arber

Finding a leaf or flower pressed in a book is like acquiring someone else's memory of the past - a souvenir of a place, an event, a discovery or the attraction to something beautiful. The earliest known specimen of a pressed plant is a set of leaves from an olive tree which were found in an Egyptian pyramid from the time of Ptolomy (305 BCE). They are now in the herbarium at Kew Gardens in London.

The organized collecting and storage of dried plants into an herbarium can be credited to Luca Ghini (1490-1556) who used them to instruct students of medicine at the University of Bologna where he was "Chair of Herbs".

When he was not supported in an attempt to start a garden for teaching and medicinal purposes, he left for Pisa where he joined with Cosimo I de' Medici who funded the design and building of the oldest botanical garden in the world. Later they also built the botanical Garden of Florence.

Ghini is considered the father of botany in Italy and counted among his students the greatest names that followed.

In his honor I have placed a chair on the top of my herbarium.
I gave William Frcka a few measurements and a raw little sketch and, promptly, he brought me a charming wooden chair. I sprayed it green and adorned it with dried ferns and rosebuds, made a cushion for the seat, and placed a plaque with pertinent information on the back. It sits on a rug that is embroidered and covered with dried plant material.

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