Tuesday 29 May 2018

Urban Weeds of Istanbul: A Brief Botanical Collection

I was always interested in the endless diversity of plants, and in late 2017 I decided to start a dedicated herbarium - with properly pressed, catalogued specimens.
Herbaria are most useful when they focus on a certain area or habitat, so I kept mine on "Istanbul's Wild Urban Flora" - that is to say, the weeds of Istanbul. I thought it was an under-researched area, and the mostly-overlooked "weed" plants actually had tremendous variety among themselves. Plus, living in metropolitan Istanbul myself, I wouldn't have to go anywhere special to collect plants.
So I got to work. I made two special stamps for my herbarium...
...the first was this "data stamp", which saved me from the effort of printing labels, or writing data points by hand. It had spaces for an overall collection counter, a collection title, the family, genus and species of the plants (left mostly blank, as I had no botanical training), a space for the name of the researcher who I hoped would one day properly ID my specimen, and various other spaces for coordinates, the type of the plant, and so on. I also included a metre-scale bar to make it easier for researchers to measure the plants.
I also made this fancy logo stamp...

I learnt all the tips on starting a botanical collection from the excellent "Field Techniques Used by Missouri Botanical Garden" website, compiled by R. Liesner and associates at the Missouri Botanical Garden; which I printed out and bound as an individual booklet. If you want to start a collection of your own, make sure to consult this valuable resource.
I thought a new era had opened in my life, and I would go on to create a botanical collection of hundreds of plates, which would keep me busy for decades. But the world of plants turned out to be vortex of time and attention, to which no one could commit "part of their time" and rest easy. Within weeks of starting this collection, I kept seeing new varieties of weeds and plants everywhere. Collecting, pressing and fixing specimens consumed so much of my time that I started neglecting my own work, book and arts projects. So, regrettably, I decided to "freeze" this collection after preparing 32 plates - 31 from Istanbul, and one from Ankara. I now contend myself with merely taking photographs and making cyanotype prints of plants. The plates sit at my office in an envelope, waiting for the day they will be donated to a botanical garden, university or similar institution. You can see them all below, as high-resolution scans.www.cmkosemen.com

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