Secrets of the Field Museum: botany

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CHICAGO -- Christine Niezgoda is in charge of one of the newest rooms at the Field Museum -- and a dizzying array of plants from every corner of the globe.

Compactors move the nearly three million flowering and non-flower plants in the herbarium.

They are dried, mounted on acid free archival paper and kept in a bug-free controlled climate out of the light and out of public view -- important details considering the oldest specimen. to their knowledge, was collected by British explorer captain James Cook in the 1700s in a voyage to Tahiti..

There are endangered plants and a collection worthy of bragging rights, and that is just the flat collection. Christine’s work continues upstairs: basically anything and everything made out of plant material. Also, baskets, brooms, instruments, a huge collection of resins and essential oils.

It is the historic beginnings of botany, Christine says, what countries did best hundreds of years ago, their secrets continually being unlocked as scientists at the Field Museum and around research the treasured specimens.