Rosenthal Herbarium internationally recognized, added to registry


The Beacon/Megan Stanley

Laura Solomon, senior biology major, looking at the corydalis plant with Dr. Kenneth Klemow in the Herbarium.

Megan Stanley, Staff Writer

The Rosenthal Herbarium at Wilkes University has recently been added to the database of Index Herbariorum, an international directory of herbaria.

Established in 1982, the Herbarium has a collection of over 3,400 specimens of pressed and preserved plants. The majority of the samples are from Pennsylvania, but some plants are acquired from places such as Florida, California, Texas and Canada.

The director and curator of the Herbarium, Dr. Kenneth Klemow, has been interested in plant collection since his undergraduate studies at the University of Miami and contributed to the herbarium at Syracuse’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Klemow established the Herbarium at Wilkes more than 30 years ago using both his own personal collection of plants and those that students collected during his classes.

“If you go into the herbarium, you’ll see a lot of plants that were collected in the 1980s, when we were trying to rapidly build up the collection. From there, in the 1990s and 2000s and the past eight years we would add around 100 specimens per year.”

“I have around 3,400 specimens in the collection. Many of these specimens are collected by students and many of these students have now graduated and gone off to become alumni. We want alumni to know that their work lives on in our herbaria, and we take good care of it.”

Klemow spoke about his reasoning behind applying for recognition from the Index Herbariorium.

“I was elected as the president of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey, which is a group of biologists who are interested simply in biodiversity within the state. Being that I’m the president of this organization my collection should be properly recognized.”

He further added, “it is something that I always aspired [to], because all the best herbaria are there.”

Klemow spoke about the benefits of having a herbarium within the university, such as his ability to use the specimens to teach classes.

“Some plants are of medicinal value and we have students that are pre-med orientated and so (the herbarium) can be used to show the relationship between plants and these other areas that are important to them.”

He further added that herbaria serve as important “store-houses of genetic diversity and genetic information.”

Laura Solomon, a senior biology major and Kirby Scholar, has been working with Klemow in the Herbarium for nearly three years, and is currently conducting a project that involves DNA barcoding of certain species.

She spoke about how the herbarium has benefitted her academic research.

“We can actually work off any of the well-preserved samples, some of the older ones the DNA doesn’t hold up as well as we need to isolate it a certain amount to run the reactions but having the specimens gives us so much access.

“In the winter we wouldn’t be able to find certain grasses and plants, but now we can just take a little piece of leaf of the pressed plant samples and isolate that.”

Being registered to the Index has further benefits.

“It makes us part of a scientific community, and so if people are interested in our database or our plants, they can make requests to borrow our plants or we can borrow other people’s plants, whereas before we weren’t really able to do that,” Klemow said.

Klemow spoke about his future aspirations for the Herbarium at Wilkes University.

“What I want to see the collection specializing in is plants of Luzerne County. I’d like to see us have one of each species in Luzerne County. Now the question is, ‘how close are we to that?’ And the answer is we’re maybe at 30 percent, so we still have a lot to go yet.”