OSU Herbarium

A history of our herbarium collections

The Oregon State University Herbarium is housed in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. With the aid of a grant from the National Science Foundation, renovation and construction of a new herbarium facility at Oregon State University was completed in January, 1994. The collections contain approximately 550,000 vascular plant, bryophyte, algal, and fungal specimens. Although the collections are worldwide in scope, they focus on the state of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. The specimens are stored in 382 herbarium cases mounted on 20 mobile carriages. This facility houses the three major herbarium collections in Oregon: Oregon State University, University of Oregon, and Willamette University. The three collections bring complementary strengths to the newly consolidated herbarium:

The University of Oregon herbarium

The University of Oregon herbarium contains the historically invaluable collections (including 695 Oregon types) of the region's first resident botanists from the late 19th and early part of the 20th century. The personal herbaria of seven pioneer botanists (Thomas J. Howell, William C. Cusick, Louis F. Henderson, J.B. Leiberg, M.W. Gorman, E.P. Sheldon, Lilla Leach) form the core of the vascular plant collection. Transfer of the herbarium was first proposed in November 1991 and a formal agreement was signed in January 1993. The University of Oregon herbarium was moved to Corvallis in May, 1993.

The Willamette University herbarium

The Willamette University herbarium consists of the personal collection of Morton E. Peck, Professor of Biology at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon from 1908 until 1941. Peck collected in every county of the state and wrote the only statewide Flora. In Peck's obituary, Lincoln Constance wrote that the collection "will long remain the indispensable basis for studies on the plant life of all sections of the State." The collection was moved to Oregon State University on "indefinite loan" in 1976 and is maintained separately as specified in the transfer agreement.

The Oregon State University herbarium

The Oregon State University herbarium is the oldest of the three herbaria. It was established in the 1880's at Oregon Agricultural College. This institution, later called Oregon State College, is now the present Oregon State University. The history of the herbarium from its origins up to the 1950's is preserved in an unpublished manuscript by Helen M. Gilkey. This remarkable woman began her long association with the herbarium in 1904 and served as its curator from 1918-1951. In her manuscript, the evolution of OSC from a collection devoted primarily to student training and the identification of weeds and fungal plant pathogens to a modern research herbarium can be traced. Gilkey was succeeded by Albert Steward (curator from 1951-1959) and Kenton Chambers (curator from 1960-1990). The collections of Chambers and his students considerably enriched the collections. Efforts were concentrated on systematically difficult taxa, floristically rich and/or poorly known regions of Oregon, and plants of conservation concern. La Rea J. Dennis (assistant curator from 1959-1990) and Richard R. Halse (assistant curator from 1991-2016) made major contributions to the growth and maintenance of the collections. The herbarium is currently under the direction of Aaron Liston (director) and James Mickley (curator). The herbarium is the home of the OregonFlora, headed by Linda Hardison.

The mycological herbarium

The mycological herbarium began as an essential adjunct to the teaching and research in Plant Pathology. Early collections are dominated by pathogens of local importance and the conspicuous fleshy fungi. Under the stewardship of Helen M. Gilkey, the scientific importance of the collection grew. Her own specialty, the hypogeous fungi, are especially well represented. Her successor William C. Denison, expanded the collections of discomycetes and lichenized fungi. James M. Trappe, together with his students and associates, has established OSU as a world center for the taxonomic study of mycorrhizal fungi. Under the guide of Joseph Spatafora, the mycological collection has increased in size and has become a significant research resource for studies of the fungi of the Pacific Northwest. The mycological herbarium is the internationally recognized central repository for type specimens of vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae. The present curator is Jessie Uehling. Under her curation, the mycological collection moved to our renovated facility in Cordley Hall. 

The Oregon State University Herbarium Collection Policy can be accessed here.