Everlasting Plants: The U.S. National Arboretum Herbarium

The botanical treasures within our preserved collection are waiting to be revealed. Help us create a virtual herbarium for the whole world to discover and enjoy.

Current status

  • 565,751 scans
  • 147 participants

  • 561,241
    • 0.8% Unusable
    • 99.2% Entered
    • 0% Validated data
    Entered 100%
  • 39
    • 0.8% Unusable
    • 99.2% Entered
    • 0% Validated data
    Validated data 0.8%
Participate in this project

Project info

About the project

Everlasting Plants is an initiative of the Herbarium of the United States National Arboretum, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The project aims to safeguard the priceless plant specimens cared for by the National Arboretum and make them more accessible and engaging to users around the world.

With your help transcribing the data contained within our collection, we will obtain digital versions of our specimens which can then be shared with and utilized by researchers, educators, and the general public. This project represents an exceptional opportunity to contribute to the preservation and access of a collection of truly unique plant specimens!

The United States National Arboretum Herbarium

Located in northeast Washington, D.C., the United States National Arboretum is home to a spectacular array of stately gardens, iconic landmarks, and active research fields. In addition to these treasures, and out of the public's eye, the National Arboretum also houses a world-class collection of dried, pressed plants in the form of herbarium specimens. These specimens, which are mounted on large sheets of paper and preserved in perpetuity, represent over 200 years of plant collecting from nearly every corner of the globe.

The herbarium contains about 700,000 specimens and ranks within the top 80 largest such collections in the world. Many specimens are unique to our herbarium like plants collected from cultivation and original botanical introductions from overseas. Other interesting botanical assets include state "champion" trees, extinct species, crops and crop wild relatives, novel hybrids, cherries from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate, and rare plants from remote parts of globe.

What is being transcribed and what is the process?

Each image will contain a pressed plant specimen along with a label attached to the sheet. The critical data contained on these labels must be transcribed into a digital format so as to make the information more readily available. Labels will often contain detailed text about the plant or where it was found, but entering the core datawho collected it, where, and when—is the first step in bringing our collection into the light.

Detailed data entry instructions can be found here, as well as on the right panel of the project's homepage.

When presented with an image of a specimen, your task will be to type what you see on the label(s) into specific fields. This data will then be validated, curated, and finally included in the National Arboretum's "virtual herbarium."

Project outcomes

Information that you transcribe is a critical component of our growing "virtual herbarium," which aims to be the digital equivalent of the physical herbarium housed at the United States National Arboretum. The data can then be organized, accessed, searched, and updated—it also supports our long-term goal of preservation. As more and more specimen labels are transcribed, they will appear in our herbarium collection portal along with an image of the sheet itself.