Barcoding Canada’s Plants at the National Herbarium of Canada

We currently have two BIO staff – Connor and Maryam – at the National Herbarium of Canada (NHC) sampling specimens of Canadian vascular plants.  As part of the International Barcode of Life Project, BIO is striving to DNA barcode every species of Canadian plant.  We follow the Database of Vascular Plants of Canada or VASCAN that has 5582 species recorded for Canada, and we’re well on the way to completing the task – to date we’ve barcoded 4377 species.  For the species we’re missing, we are now visiting herbaria across Canada to sample species in their collections, and what better place to start than the NHC near Gatineau, Quebec.  Housed in the Canadian Museum of Nature, and overseen by curator Jennifer Doubt and research scientist Jeff Saarela, the NHC is a true national treasure with over 575 000 vascular plant specimens, including about 2500 type specimens.  Connor and Maryam are spending two weeks in the collection; they are selecting specimens of species that still require barcodes, then databasing, imaging, and tissue-sampling each specimen.  After roughly a week, the team has sampled 155 species and over 400 individuals.  Some photos of their set up and procedure at NHC are shown below, including some shots of the collection, herbarium specimens, and scanning equipment.

For more on the NHC and the Canadian Museum of Nature, check out their wonderful blog – certainly one of the best in Canada.  And for two great examples of DNA barcoding studies of Canadian plants, check out these two NHC’s publications:

Le Clerc-Blain, J., Starr, J.R., Bull, R.D. and Saarela, J.M. (2010). A regional approach to plant DNA barcoding provides high species resolution of sedges (Carex and Kobresia, Cyperaceae) in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Molecular Ecology Resources 10: 69-71. doi:10.1111/j.1755-0998.2009.02725.x ()

Saarela, J.M., Sokoloff, P.C., Gillespie, L.J., Consaul, L.L., and Bull, R.D. (2013) DNA Barcoding the Canadian Arctic Flora: Core Plastid Barcodes (rbcL + matK) for 490 Vascular Plant Species. PLoS ONE 8(10): e77982. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077982 (link)

Update on final numbers:


Collection Rows Container Folder Scanner Maryam