Miyoshi Furuse, an amateur botanist and a retired Tokyo, Japan, bus driver, spent more than 40 years collecting about 60,000 specimens of plants, believed to be the largest private herbarium in Japan. An herbarium is a reference collection of dried plants consisting of plant specimens mounted on sheets of paper and filed in cabinets according to a special arrangement for study purposes.
The National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., has purchased the collection for about $40,000. Plant species of Japanese origin are among the most widely used landscape plant in the United States. Among them are most of our evergreen azaleas, Japanese yew, Japanese privet, maples and hollies.
"When transfer of the Furuse collection is complete [including duplicates, there are about 130,000 items],the arboretum will have the largest herbarium of Japanese plants outside Japan," according to Frank S. Santamour, acting director of the arboretum. "The collection has great scientific value for botanical and horticultural research."
Frederick G. Meyer, a research botanist and curator of the herbarium at the arboretum, went to Japan to make final arrangements for transfer of the collection. The transfer will take place over a period of two years, to allow Furuse an opportunity to complete the labeling of some parts of the collection.
Arrongements also were made for the arboretum to acquire Furuse's private library, which contains many valuable books on Japanese botany.
Meyer is considered to be one of the top experts on identification of cultivated plants. He first saw the Furuse collection in November 1978, when he was on a plant-exploration trip to islands off the coast of Japan. He sugggested then that the arboretum purchase the entire collection.
"We already had purchased about 6,000 specimens form Furuse over the past several years," he says, "and we prize his material because of its very high quality. The specimens are expertly and beutifully prepared."
Furuse began collecting wild plants before World War II, but most of his collection has been done since 1950.