Preserved plant collections in the United States may be under threat (Nature 523, 16; 2015), but there are grounds for optimism. Many herbaria, including those at our own institutions, are assembling digitized specimens in increasingly popular open databases. They are joining together to promote their value for research, teaching and other services, including the formal identification of species and to raise public awareness.
Online information from plant collections is attracting positive attention, especially among younger scientists. Student interest is opening the eyes of university administrators. And crowdsourcing is educating a wide range of individuals as they collect information for herbarium databases.
The Society of Herbarium Curators is an example of an international advocacy organization founded to preserve and promote endangered collections (www.herbariumcurators.org). Its regional networks reach out to groups that were previously under-represented in the botanical community, such as state and federal agencies, and schoolchildren and teachers.
The society is developing community standards of curation and is ensuring that herbaria are fully used and not orphaned by their institutions. We advise every herbarium director to become a member: our strength lies in numbers.