Why make specimens?
Well-made and labelled herbarium specimens provide valuable records and proof that a plant was growing in a particular place at a given time for conservation and research needs, including the cataloguing of biodiversity. (Scientists obtain location and flowering details to recollect plant material, organise expeditions, etc.)
Voucher specimens show exactly what species earlier scientists had been working on and what their published results refer to.
They provide a resource to identify further specimens by effective matching. Specimens can be sent away through the post to experts for identification. This has become more common with the increasing need of environmental impact assessments before the start of construction projects. We receive many samples to identify at Reading, many are impossible or time consuming, simply because they are too fragmentary or lack data. Good specimens are more easily identified.
They provide a source of plant material for taxonomic and botanical research. Samples from herbarium specimens are routinely used for leaf anatomy, phytochemical screening, pollen studies, DNA extraction, the production of Floras, field guides, monographs, etc. Nowadays much work is done directly from the digital images of specimens sent over the Internet.
Collecting plant material is a good way to learn the names and characteristics of plants, beside being an interesting hobby which takes you out and about. You can build your own collection for personal use or donate specimens by agreement to a museum or institutional herbarium for research and reference by all. Conservation guidelines are presented elsewhere