History of the Herbaria

Barbara Ertter, Thomas Duncan, and Lincoln Constance

With a current combined total of over 2,200,000 accessioned specimens, the University Herbarium and Jepson Herbarium represent the largest collection of herbarium material west of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the largest at a public university in the United States. The relative proximity of this collection to that of the California Academy of Sciences (ca. 1,600,000 specimens, including the Dudley Herbarium from Stanford University), which maintains close collaborative ties, makes the San Francisco Bay Area the unrivaled center of plant systematic and floristic studies in the western United States. All plant groups are represented, with particular strengths in marine algae, bryophytes, and pteridophytes in addition to spermatophytes, as are all geographic areas, with strengths in western North America, Mexico, Andean South America, and eastern Asia.

The initial core of the collection is the "large and full suite" of botanical specimens obtained from the Geological Survey of California undertaken by the new state in the 1860's. This is currently the only set of these early collections, mostly by William H. Brewer and Henry N. Bolander, on the West Coast. Included are numerous isotypes and other material critical for studies of western botany.

College of California in Oakland, circa 1869
College of California in Oakland, circa 1868
Brewer was named Professor of Natural Science of the private College of California in 1863, but returned to Yale shortly thereafter. The College became the University in 1868, with Joseph Le Conte serving as Professor of Geology, Natural History, and Botany. For the next two decades, botany courses were generally taught by associates of other institutions (e.g., the fledgling California Academy of Sciences): Hans Behr, Albert Kellogg, Edward Lee Greene, and Charles E. Bessey (as a visiting Lecturer from Iowa Agricultural College), among others. Greene became Instructor of Botany in 1885, the first strictly botanical appointee. In 1890 the Department of Botany was established within the new College of Natural Sciences; the herbarium was initiated at the same time. Greene resigned ten years later to become Professor of Botany at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., taking most of his collections with him (and subsequently to Notre Dame University). As a result, types of the numerous species Greene described during this exploratory period of California botany are primarily in the Greene Herbarium at Notre Dame; others, however, are scattered among the University Herbarium, the California Academy of Science, and the various herbaria that acquired portions of the dispersed Catholic University herbarium.

William Albert Setchell (click for biography)
William Albert Setchell (1864–1943)
William Albert Setchell replaced Greene in 1895, serving also as Chairman of the department. He officially established the University Herbarium (the oldest natural history museum on campus) and set the department on its way to achieving national and international distinction during his 40-year tenure. His retirement in 1934, coinciding with Gardner's and followed shortly by Jepson's in 1937, marked the end of an era in the Botany Department.

Setchell's primary interest was marine algae; vascular plants were the responsibility of Joseph Burtt Davy, Willis Linn Jepson, and Harvey Monroe Hall. During Setchell's tenure, Townshend S. and Katharine Brandegee donated their extensive library and herbarium of 76,000 specimens, including the valuable exsiccatae of Carl A. Purpus with a wealth of Mexican types. Hall resigned as Curator in 1919 to join the Department of Plant Biology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, there to preside over the famous transplant studies. He was succeeded at Berkeley by phycologist Nathaniel L. Gardner, who served as Curator of the Herbarium until 1934.

A strength in east Asia (especially China) and the Pacific Basin, in the form of ca. 110,000 specimens, resulted from the five-year tenure of Elmer D. Merrill as Dean of Agriculture. In addition to his own collections, these specimens included significant collections by A. D. E. Elmer, J. Clemens, and J. F. C. Rock. Many of these specimens are potential lectotypes and neotypes as a result of the destruction of the Philippine National Herbarium during World War II. Merrill came to the University from the Philippine Bureau of Science in 1924 and left in 1929 to become director of the New York Botanical Garden.

Andean South America became a strength when T. Harper Goodspeed, director of the University Botanical Garden, launched a series of Andean Expeditions from 1935 to 1949 in conjunction with his studies on Nicotiana. Vouchers of over 35,000 collections, including numerous new species, were deposited in the University Herbarium. Goodspeed published an account ofthe expeditions in his book, Plant Hunters in the Andes. Paul Hutchison continued collecting in the Andes for several decades more.

Herbert L. Mason
Herbert L. Mason (1896–1994)
Herbert L. Mason served as Director of the Herbarium for thirty years (1933-1963). During his directorship, the size of the collections doubled, service to the University and the public was promoted, and the role of the herbarium broadened beyond academic research. Notable acquisitions during this period included the vouchers for the Vegetation Type Map of California, Ira W. Clokey's collection of ca. 100,000 specimens from the western United States, Joseph P. Tracy's 50,000 specimens from northwestern California, and the collections of Annie Alexander and Louise Kellogg from the western American desert ranges.

The Mason plan of organization was based on a faculty member as Curator for each of the major divisions of the plant kingdom, each Curator to be supported by a Herbarium Botanist who would take responsibility for the appropriate collections in the Herbarium, as well as perform other assigned duties. These non-faculty positions became increasingly critical to the herbarium as the emphasis in the Botany Department shifted toward molecular and cellular approaches. By the end of Mason's tenure there were faculty Curators only for algal (George F. Papenfuss) and seed plant collections (Lincoln Constance). Lee Bonar curated the fungi as Emeritus Professor; the ferns had been uncurated since Edwin B. Copeland's death.

Under Mason, the number of professional herbarium botanists increased from two to five, with both curatorial duties and research interests. These consisted of Margaret Bergseng (filing and loans; Violaceae), Annetta Carter (general administration; Baja California flora), Helen Sharsmith (exchange and public service; California flora), Paul Silva (herbarium library; algae), and Isabelle Tavares (accessions; fungi). Previous herbarium botanists and other affiliated researchers included Floy Bracelin, Marion Cave (cytogenetics), Ethel Crum (Potentilla), Harriet Walker, Vera Miller (mycology), and Helen Mar Wheeler (Nicotiana).

Lincoln Constance, who had just served as Vice Chancellor (1962-65), succeeded Mason as Director of the Herbarium from 1963 to 1975. Constance successfully transferred most of the key herbarium positions into the professional Research Botanist series. These were academic positions where research counted toward promotion, in contrast to the previous non-academic Museum Scientist series. Silva and Larry Heckard (Jepson Herbarium) were promptly reclassified to the new series. Tavares, because of a different funding source from the College of Natural Resources, entered the Specialist series, also an academic classification. When Bergsang retired in 1967, and Carter in 1968, their positions were filled at the new classifications by John L. Strother and Alan Smith. Carter's administrative duties were taken over by Administrative Assistant Alice Howard (previously Secretary, later reclassified to Senior Museum Scientist), who also became increasingly involved in the grounds well interest in California rare plants and conservation issues. Curatorial duties were divided among the academic staff: Silva (algal and "wet stack" curation and public service; library curation, including Gray Index Cards and Index Nominum Genericorum), Smith (pteridophyte and grass curation and public service; vascular plant loans; supervision of student research assistants), Strother (vascular plant exchange and public service; supervision of preparators), and Tavares (curation and public service for mycology, lichens, and bryophytes; accession records).

This period coincided with an extreme space shortage, such that the newly recruited young research staff had little more than desks in the corners of crowded herbarium stacks. As one result, the candidate selected by the review committee to replace Sharsmith, who retired in 1969, rejected the offer, citing lack of suitable office space as one reason (the candidate later became Herbarium Director at the New York Botanical Garden, Patricia Kern Holmgren). Unfortunately, the position was frozen during subsequent lean years and never filled. One of four student research assistant positions was also lost, and one of three preparator positions was replaced with a Museum Scientist (Tom Tang) to assist with cryptogamic curation.

The extreme space restrictions also led to a policy of curtailed accessions. Growth occurred primarily in conjunction with research specialties: Apiaceae (Constance), Latin American Asteraceae (Strother), and pteridophytes (Smith). The continued collecting activities of Carter further established a strength in Baja California, Mexico, during this period.

Robert Ornduff, Acting Director when Constance was on sabbatical leave, formally assumed the directorship in 1975. One particularly significant acquisition during Ornduff's tenure was the transfer of a large part of Carl Epling's specimens of Labiatae, including many holotypes, from UCLA to UC in1977. Ornduff continued until 1982, when the conflicting demands of serving also as director of the Botanical Garden became too time-consuming. The directorship passed to Thomas Duncan, who had replaced Constance on the Botany Department staff after his retirement in 1976.

Under the directorship of Duncan (1982-1991) and with the assistance of successive NSF grants, the herbarium entered a new period of activity marked by computerization and staff reorganization. By reducing the percent time of the staff illustrator and cryptogamic curatorial assistant, a new position was created to oversee the new computer hardware and software, and to assist herbarium staff in making the transition. Progress toward eventual computerization began with the databasing of selected curatorial records (loans, accessions) and subsets of the collections (types, fruit & cone collection).

Also, in response to recommendations resulting from previous NSF grant applications, general curatorial duties of the research staff were consolidated in a newly defined Collections Manager position, replacing Alice Howard in 1985. In that major renovation was scheduled for the Berkeley herbaria, Barbara Ertter's recent experience with designing and relocating the herbaria of the University of Texas at Austin was a significant factor in her recruitment for this position. Ertter's collecting efforts in the western United States also briefly revitalized the accession and exchange programs.

When Duncan's tenure ended in 1991, he became faculty director of the fledgling Museum Informatics Project (MIP), coinciding with approval of NSF funding for a far-ranging program to begin computerization of the data associated with specimens from California in herbaria throughout the state, the Specimen Management System for California Herbaria (SMASCH). Former Vice Chancellor Roderic Park, a Plant Biology faculty member, became Acting Director. Park appointed John L. Strother, who had been Acting Director during Duncan's 1991 sabbatical, to be Deputy Director in charge of internal matters. After a 2-year search, bryologist Brent D. Mishler took over the Directorship in July 1993, arriving from Duke University with several graduate students and a commitment to remain at the fore front of systematic research. The transition period between directors coincided with several other major events affecting the herbaria. First was the massive reorganization of Biological Sciences initiated in 1980, which resulted in the dismantling of the Department of Botany and the affiliation of the autonomous herbaria with the new Department of Integrative Biology, separate from the Department of Plant Biology. Second, the long-planned total renovation of the Life Sciences Building resulted in herbaria and staff being transferred to off-campus facilities in 1989, returning to modernized quarters at the end of1994. Third, a major statewide recession triggered sequential budget cuts, buffered by Park's efforts but nevertheless eventually resulting in the loss of staff artist and some curatorial support staff.

At the same time, on-going recruitment efforts continued to prove successful. As one of Mishler's first actions, he negotiated with Daniel H. Norris to relocate to Berkeley, bringing with him his extensive personal collection of bryophytes. With a new Director in place, the search for a new Jepson Curator (vacant since Heckard's untimely death in 1991) could begin, resulting in the recruitment of Bruce Baldwin (Asteraceae: Madiinae; molecular systematics) in 1994. At the same time, Ertter became a Research Botanist with the title of Curator of Western North American Flora. Tavares retired in late 1993; the search for her replacement is still ongoing.

Willis Linn Jepson
Willis Linn Jepson (1867–1946)
Jepson Herbarium. The Jepson Herbarium (JEPS) comprises a separate collection of ca. 96,000 specimens of vascular plants of California. While the University Herbarium (UC) is state funded, the Jepson Herbarium is privately endowed. It was established in 1950 by a bequest from Willis Linn Jepson, the first doctoral graduate from the Botany Department (1898) and then a professor until 1937. His Manual of the Flowering Plants of California (1925) was the primary reference on the subject for over thirty years. Recent donations from supporters of the Jepson Herbarium have added significantly to the original endowment.

The core of the herbarium consists of Jepson's personal collections and other vouchers for his Manual and Flora. Subsequent additions have largely been collections made by JEPS staff members or sent to them for verification, especially by native plant enthusiasts. In addition to the plant collections, the Jepson Herbarium also includes a diversity of other resources, including the Jepson library and archives.

The intent of Jepson's bequest was to further his work on the systematics of vascular plants of California in particular and western North America in general. The first curators, Rimo Bacigalupi (1950-1968) and Lawrence R. Heckard (1968-1991), focused on families left undone in Jepson's ambitious multi-volume Flora of California, primarily Scrophulariaceae. The Jepson Herbarium has also continued to be a critical link between academia and a burgeoning interest in native flora exemplified by the California Native Plant Society. Another of Jepson's desires was fulfilled in 1993, which marked the culmination of a ten-year project to revise Jepson's Manual, under the editorship of James C. Hickman.

In 1994, Bruce Baldwin became the most recent Jepson Curator, the first research appointment in either herbarium with adjunct faculty status (Integrative Biology). In addition to research on tarweeds and teaching responsibilities, Baldwin became chair of an editorial board to oversee the production of the next edition of the Manual and future electronic versions. Baldwin's appointment also coincided with a resurgence in public education and outreach activities of the Jepson Herbarium, beginning with a symposium in June 1994 and followed by a series of weekend workshops.

Special Collections

a. Pteridophyte Collection. The University Herbarium includes one of the premier pteridophyte collections in the country. Initial credit for this emphasis goes to Edwin B. Copeland, who was induced to come to Berkeley in 1927 by Merrill, Copeland's former associate in the Philippines. Copeland remained on the staff as Research Associate until 1957. His personal herbarium, comprising 25,000 sheets and especially rich in Asian and Pacific Basin ferns, was eventually purchased by the University of Michigan at the urging of W. H. Wagner, Jr., who was greatly influenced by Copeland while a student at Berkeley (Ph.D., 1950). Fortunately, a significant set of duplicates and some archival material remained at Berkeley, forming a solid core around which was built a new pteridological strength. Since Alan R. Smith's arrival in 1969, the pteridological tradition has been continued, largely as a result of gifts sent for determination (ca. 50,000). These specimens have been received in conjunction with Smith's participation in the treatment of pteridophytes for various floras, particularly Neotropical ones.

b. Bryophyte Collections. The basis of the bryological collection was formed by the liverworts and mosses collected by Marshall Avery Howe and Frederick T. Bioletti in the early 1890's, vouchers for Howe's "Hepatics and Anthocerotes of California". Exchange specimens included bryophytes collected by Bolander as part of the California Geological Survey, mosses from Elizabeth G. Britton and Clara Eaton Cummings, and exsiccatae such as Grout's "North American Musci Pleurocarpi". Further acquisitions include California collections of hepatics and mosses donated by various botanists, including Annetta Carter. In addition to California, the herbarium encompasses a broad selection of specimens from Canada, north and central Europe, Japan, western South America, Burma, Central America, and the West Indies.

This existing core was effectively tripled in 1993, with the donation of Daniel H. Norris's personal herbarium of about 85,000 bryophytes, collected in a number of regions around the world during the last several decades. This fine collection greatly strengthens efforts to produce a bryophyte flora for California as well as general research in worldwide systematic studies.

University and Jepson Herbaria Director Brent D. Mishler, a faculty member in Integrative Biology, has developed an active research and training program in the phylogeny, ecology, and biosystematics of bryophytes. He currently supervises four graduate students and several foreign visitors and post-docs who are actively using and enhancing the collections.

d. Phycology Collections. In 1892 the first phycological collections were acquired when Marshall Avery Howe, who taught cryptogamic botany during Greene's tenure, presented to the University the specimens from his field work on the Monterey Peninsula. The 1895 appointment of William A.Setchell as Chairman of the Botany Department ushered in a period ofsustained growth in the phycological collections that is still in progress. Setchell's student Nathaniel L. Gardner, who became both a faculty member and curator of the herbarium, continued this interest in phycology. Setchell and Gardner both retired in 1934, but a phycological focus was reactivated by George F. Papenfuss during the 1940's. In 1960 Papenfuss brought in his former student Paul C. Silva as an assistant. Following Papenfuss's retirement in 1971, Silva has maintained the herbarium's phycological strength as research botanist in charge of algal curation, with the assistance of specialist Richard L. Moe and a diversity of visiting scholars, post-doctoral students, and other research affiliates. In 1994 Silva and Moe's involvement in nomenclatural issues inspired the establishment of a Center for Phycological Documentation.

The majority of phycology specimens have resulted from field work of faculty and former students, primarily Setchell (California, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa, and tropical Pacific Islands), Gardner (Pacific Coast of North America), E. Yale Dawson (Pacific Ocean basin), Papenfuss (South Africa, East Africa, Red Sea, Indonesia, New Zealand), Silva (Pacific Ocean basin), Sylvia Earle (Caribbean and Indo- Pacific), Moe (Antarctica), and Kathy Ann Miller (Channel Islands, Alaska, and Antarctica). Specimens from other collectors, including many historical collections from European herbaria, have accrued as a result of an active exchange program. Because of the University Herbarium's status as of one of the premier phycological collections in the country, it has also become the repository of phycology specimens of other herbaria. In 1972, ca. 87,000 specimens from the Missouri Botanical Garden (MO in UC) and ca. 1,000 from the California Academy of Sciences and Dudley Herbarium of Stanford University (CAS-DS in UC) were deposited at Berkeley, further enhancing existing, historically important collections.

e. Fungus and Lichen Collections. The mycological collections began with the deposition of fungi in 1892 by Walter Charles Blasdale, an assistant in cryptogamic botany, and the receipt of exchange from Thomas Jonathan Burrill in Illinois and Charles H. Peck. Numerous additional exsiccati were subsequently accumulated, such as Sydow's "Mycotheca Germanica" and George P. Clinton's supplement to the Economic Fungi of Seymour and Earle, both received in 1904. Ongoing exchange with other institutions has resulted in the acquisitions of large numbers of northern European fungi, as well as smaller collections from Brazil, Australia, and other areas.

In-house collecting activities were initiated by Setchell and Gardner, who made extensive collections of fungi (as well as algae) in the San Francisco Bay area from 1901 to 1920, concentrating on hypogeous fungi. The collections of Harold E. Parks, mostly of hypogeous fungi and parasites of vascular plants, make up a particularly large part of the fungus herbarium. The strength of the mycological collection was firmly established by Lee Bonar, who collected and described numerous California fungi from the 1920's to the 1970's. He also compiled invaluable indices on parasitic fungi and their host plants in California, used by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. This and other projects have been continued by Isabelle Tavares, along with her own specialties in lichens and the Laboulbeniales. The mycological holdings were further strengthened when the collections of lichenologist Thomas Elliot Weier were donated to the herbarium.