Plant identification courses are common in horticulture-, botany-, ecology-, and agriculture-based curricula worldwide (Kirchoff et al. 2014; Randler 2008; Stagg and Donkin 2013; Weigelt et al. 2021). These courses teach students to identify a variety of species using morphological features. Depending on the course and the instructor, students may also be required to know the common name, family, genus, specific epithet, and cultivar (Wilson and Miller 2015). Two such courses are taught at Iowa State University (Ames, IA, USA)—HORT 240: Landscape Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines for Landscaping and HORT 330: Herbaceous Annuals and Perennials. High-quality teaching materials are used in both courses for lectures, laboratories, and for out-of-class study to show distinguishing features among plants. We sought to complement existing teaching materials, including live materials (cut, greenhouse, or field), pressed herbarium specimens, and photography with botanical scans.
Scanning existing herbarium specimens has enhanced access to herbaria via the Internet and has allowed for digital backup of physical specimens (Kovtonyuk et al. 2021; Seregin 2016). Scanners used in conjunction with custom software algorithms have been used to estimate leaf area and measure root structure (Easlon and Bloom 2014; Suchoff et al. 2017). Botanical scanning has been used by artists to capture plants as still-life displays (Hoverkamp 2022), in collegiate art of horticulture courses (Eames-Sheavly 2016), and for use with image manipulation software to create dramatic effects (Cramer 2018, 2021). Scans have also been used in entomology to digitize pinned specimens (Buchmann 2011).
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Cramer, C 2018 Sweep of light: Scanner photography and the art of horticulture at Mann Library Gallery https://blogs.cornell.edu/hort/2018/02/07/sweep-of-light-scanner-photography-and-the-art-of-horticulture-at-mann-library-gallery/. [accessed 6 Apr 2022]
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Kovtonyuk, N., Han, I.V. & Gatilova, E. 2021 Ferns at the digital herbarium of the Central Siberian Botanical Garden SB RAS Biodivers. Data J. 9 e72950 https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.9.e72950
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Seregin, A.P 2016 Making the Russian flora visible: Fast digitisation of the Moscow University Herbarium (MW) in 2015 Taxon 65 205 207 https://doi.org/10.12705/651.29
Stagg, B.C. & Donkin, M. 2013 Teaching botanical identification to adults: Experiences of the UK participatory science project ‘Open Air Laboratories.’ J. Biol. Educ. 47 104 110 https://doi.org/10.1080/00219266.2013.764341
Suchoff, D.H., Gunter, C.C. & Louws, F.J. 2017 Comparative analysis of root system morphology in tomato rootstocks HortTechnology 27 319 324 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH03654-17
Weigelt, P., Denelle, P., Brambach, F. & Kreft, H. 2021 BotanizeR: A flexible R package with Shiny app to practice plant identification for online teaching and beyond Plants People Planet 4 2 122 127 https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10226
Wilson, M.S. & Miller, C.T. 2015 Using Google maps web-application to create virtual plant maps for use as an online study tool in plant identification courses HortTechnology 25 253 256 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.25.2.253