UMKC Creates Powell Gardens Plant Resource

Photo Credit: Paul Redfearn

Collaboration is an herbarium website

Ready for spring flowers? No need to wait for warmer temperatures with the new plant resource website the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Biological Sciences created that shows blooming beauties year round.

The UMKC site is a virtual herbarium, a collection of flora from all over Missouri preserved at Powell Gardens, the 970-acre botanical garden in Kingsville, Mo., 30 miles east of Kansas City. Tamas Kapros, a UMKC teaching associate professor and his plant biology students, took field trips over several years to Powell Gardens to study and photograph the extensive collections of preserved plant specimens — flowers, stems, leaves, seed and fruit — from all across Missouri.

“This is a digital catalog of plants native to Missouri and their history,” Kapros said of the site, which also can be found under “Gardening Resources” at the Powell Gardens website

However, there are other than native plants in this catalog. On the database, search “Magnolia grandiflora” — Powell Gardens is nationally recognized for its magnolia collection, with more than 300 varieties that bloom from mid-March through June — and click on “Bracken’s Brown Beauty” and you’ll see an image of the specimen Kapros and his student Jacob Fordyce photographed as well as important details about the collection.

“Herbarium specimens verify proper plant identification, but also document plant evolution through DNA samples, pests and disease presence and climate change,” said Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture at Powell Gardens. “By making this digital, it improves access so plant experts don’t have to physically go to places to collect the information. It’s of incredible value.”

Kapros says hundreds of hours were spent creating the site that UMKC associate professor Jakob Waterborg built. The digital herbarium of more than 2,000 photographs represents more than 18,000 plants in 28 large metal cabinets. They collaborated with Paul Redfearn, a retired professor of botany from Missouri State University, who is volunteer curator of the Norland Henderson Herbarium at Powell Gardens.

“My favorite parts of the site are the sections on wildflowers, irises and magnolias,” said Redfearn, who presents programs on how plants got their names and the vegetation of Missouri and Powell Gardens.


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