The herbarium was started in 1980 by Marcia Marsden, a founder member of La Société. In the late 1970s Frances Le Sueur, botanical recorder for all the Channel Islands, had given her a card index of Sark plants with their grid reference locations. K G Messenger had begun the index in the 1950s when he brought the Uppingham School Field Club to Sark for botanical studies. It was this card index, plus a number of plant specimens collected by Mrs Le Sueur, that inspired Marcia to start the herbarium. She created a new card index and, with the help of Dr Roger Veall, who later became BSBI Recorder for Sark, she painstakingly collected, sorted and mounted new specimens of flowering plants, ferns, grasses and trees, all except for the most common plants, to add to the basic collection already acquired. Samples of some specimens were also sent to the Guernsey herbarium. On her death Marcia Marsden left the herbarium to La Société. It now houses over 500 specimens and is constantly updated with new finds. White Henbane (Hyoscyamus albus), a Mediterranean plant found in a vegetable patch and Hairy Bindweed (Calystegia pulchra) found growing on an old pump are some of the recent additions.
Specimens of particular interest are of plants no longer found such as Adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum), originally found on Brecqhou only, Small Adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum azoricum) sighted only in Little Sark in 1961 or Yarrow Broomrape (Orobanche purpurea) first noted in 1847, then in 1977 and 1995 but has not been seen since. Rarities are also special like Narrow-leaved Cudweed (Filago gallica) found only in Little Sark and not in the other Channel Islands or a particular variety of Rock Sea-lavender (Limonium binervosum ssp. sarniense var. sercquense) which is unique to Sark. As all life depends on plants it is essential that knowledge of local plant distribution is recorded so that over time any changes in the diversity or in the loss of habitat can be ascertained; a herbarium is the best way of storing this knowledge.
Serious students of botany are welcome to consult the herbarium by contacting Susan Synnott, tel: 01481 832314, for an appointment.