Go back

Policies, Plans, and Procedures

Mission of APSC:

APSC’s mission consists of four primary goals: (1) to serve as the primary herbarium for the Interior Low Plateaus Physiographic Province (Interior Plateau Ecoregion); (2) to maintain a reference collection of most Southeastern U.S. vascular plant taxa; (3) to thoroughly represent the plant diversity of Southeastern grassland, rock outcrop, woodland, savanna, and cliff communities; and (4) to educate a new generation of highly skilled field botanists, taxonomists, and systematists through excellence in teaching, research, and outreach. To fulfill these goals and to ensure the long-term preservation of APSC’s specimens and resources, the following guidelines and policies have been developed.

Growth Plan:

With the recent acquisition of cabinets from Harvard University and plans to eventually compactorize the cabinets in the existing space, APSC has the potential to double its holding-capability to grow from its current estimated 50,000 specimens to 100,000 specimens, while still having room for ample library, bench-top, and work space, as well as space to store loans and staff/student research. However, we also realize that future growth must be directed and focused. To achieve “smart growth” we have begun a process of de-accessioning duplicate specimens and exchanging these with other herbaria. We also plan to prioritize our collecting efforts to include the following:

  1. Specimens collected from high-quality examples of the Mid-South’s remaining natural plant communities
  2. Specimens from grasslands, rock outcrops, cliffs, riverscour communities, savannas, and open woodlands
  3. Specimens of rare, threatened, and endangered species and endemic species
  4. Specimens of US and Canadian species not already represented in the collection or specimens from physiographic regions in the Southeast not currently represented in the collection


To comply with our plans for “smart growth” APSC seeks to actively exchange specimens with other institutions. Currently, APSC maintains an active exchange programs with more than 25 institutions. APSC is interested in receiving material from throughout the United States and Canada, with particular emphasis on specimens from the Interior Plateau Ecoregion and Mid-South U.S (see priorities for growth above). Specimens from all vascular and non-vascular plant groups are welcomed. APSC can exchange unmounted and mounted specimens, mostly from Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia. If you are interested in starting an exchange program please contact the APSC Herbarium at herbarium@apsu.edu or (931) 221-7771. 

Visitation & Things to Consider While in the Herbarium:

Access to collections. The Herbarium is open to any visitor, professional or amateur, with a legitimate reason to consult the collections. Click here for directions to the herbarium and hours of operation. All visitors check in with, and are oriented by, a member of the Herbarium staff. There are no charges for on-site study of the collections by an individual. Please check with the Herbarium Director (Dr. Dwayne Estes), Assistant Curator, or Collections Manager to arrange a visit or tour.

Handling collections. Individuals working with the collections should handle specimens very carefully. They are not to be flipped upside down, like pages in a box, or have their corners turned upward while flipping through a stack. Individuals are encouraged to work at a station or desk when examining collections. All specimens should be returned to the cabinets promptly when finished and not left out overnight.

General Herbarium Rules. Eating and drinking around specimens is prohibited. Drinks in spill-proof containers are permissible at designated stations within the herbarium.

Arrangement of Specimens in APSC:

Specimens at APSC are arranged into Lichens, Bryophytes, Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms, Monocots, and Dicots, with specimens organized alphabetically by family, genus, and species within each major group. Nomenclature for families and genera follows Weakley’s (2012) Flora of the Southern & Mid-Atlantic States. Specimens in green folders are from Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area; those in manila folders are from all other regions. Future plans include separating specimens from the Interior Plateau into their own folders in order by state and county. Boxes of separate parts, including fruits and liquid-preserved collections, are filed at the end of each family. Type specimens are intercalated into the main collection in special orange folders.

Pest Management:

All specimens must be frozen for 48 hours prior to entry into the herbarium to prevent insect infestations. Live specimens and pressing plants in the herbarium is not allowed.

Loan Policy:

Loans are made to researchers of herbaria recognized by Index Herbariorum (2013). Loans usually are not made to individuals. Use of materials by graduate students must be conducted under the supervision of a major professor. Loans should be requested by the Collection Manager or Curator of the borrowing institution. Requests are accepted in writing on the borrowing institution’s letterhead or by email.

On the loan request, the requestor should specify the families, genera, and species of plants needed, including pertinent synonyms. The requestor should also specifiy the number of specimens needed and the geographic area of needed specimens. Specimens of taxa whose transport is regulated by federal or international law cannot be sent to institutions lacking proper permission to receive them. These include any taxon listed on any of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices or on the Federal Noxious Weeds list. 

Shipping invoices will be sent separately when the loan is mailed. When the loan is received, the contents should be verified, and the acknowledgement copy of the invoice returned immediately. Specimens will have been packed carefully for transit. They should be returned in the same manner. Specimens should also be checked for quality. If there are damaged specimens (particularly if damaged during shipment), then the borrowing institution should clearly indicate this on the invoice and notify APSC’s Curator immediately in writing. Specimens on loan must be stored in standard herbarium cabinets safe from insect attack, and handled with care at all times.

Loans of herbarium specimens are made for a period of one year, with extensions granted by the Curator/Collections Manager only upon written request.  Normally a few sheets of each species are retained at APSC for reference purposes.

All herbarium sheets should be returned with a properly attached annotation label with the name of the investigator, institution, and date (see additional information below under Annotation of Specimens).

Destructive Sampling:

APSC welcomes the use of its collections for appropriate research projects, including molecular studies, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), confocal microscopy, and palynology. Decisions concerning destructive sampling are made on a case-by-case basis by the Curator. If suitable loose material is available in packets, it should be used prior to removing parts from the mounted specimens. If sampling is permitted, then the following rules for destructive sampling apply:

Annotation of Specimens:

All specimens borrowed for study should be properly annotated prior to return. Annotation labels should include the full scientific name of the species and its authority, the name of the researcher, the institutional affiliation of the researcher, and the date. Typed annotation labels are strongly preferred. Annotations should be made on archival-quality paper, should have straight edges (not uneven scissor-cut edges), and should be mounted near the specimen label (preferably above it). Care should be taken to use a minimal amount of glue as possible to avoid wrinkling of annotation labels due to too much glue. An example annotation slip is provided below:

Visiting researchers are encouraged to pre-print annotation slips and bring them with them to affix to specimens. Prior arrangements may be made to have APSC staff/students print annotations but researchers must make arrangements with the Curator, Assistant Curator, or Collection Manager prior to visiting.

De-accessioning APSC Specimens:

Specimens to be de-accessioned may include exact duplicates (with same date, collector, collection number, and identical label data, and same part of the plant), specimens that are overly represented in the collection from a particular site or location (e.g. 10 white clover specimens from the campus of Austin Peay State University), or specimens that are of extremely poor quality, incomplete, or damaged. All specimens de-accessioned from APSC must be approved by the curator. Care must be taken when culling duplicates to ensure that the best specimen of the duplicate set is retained at APSC. In addition, multiple parts of a single collection should be retained at APSC in all circumstances. For example in very large specimens it may be necessary to press a top, middle, and bottom section (sometimes designated A,B,C, etc. or specimen 1 of 2, 2 of 2, etc.). These may contain identical label data but all three parts should be retained at APSC and not separated. Specimens deposited as part of past research will not be de-accessioned.

Donation of Specimens to APSC:

The Herbarium endeavors to accession high-quality specimens useful for systematic, floristic, and biogeographical research. Quality is assured by encouraging the staff to collect good, complete, fertile specimens and by maintaining exchange agreements with herbaria that provide well prepared and labeled, fertile specimens from areas of scientific interest to APSC. The following guidelines should be followed before depositing specimens at APSC:

Proper Acknowledgement of APSC Specimens & Resources:

Please cite APSC (not APSU) in any publications resulting from studies of these collections.  Reprints or copies of resultant publications should be sent to APSC.