About the University Herbarium

William A. Setchell (click for biography)
William. A. Setchell

Phycologist, mycologist, ethnobotanist, biogeographer, and founder of the University Herbarium.
Smithora naiadum
Smithora naiadum, a marine red alga growing on a marine flowering plant.

The mission of the University Herbarium is to understand the systematics, ecology, and evolution of all groups traditionally considered plants on a worldwide basis. Established in 1895 around a core of preserved plant specimens that were collected by William Brewer on the California Geological Survey of 1860 to 1864, the University Herbarium now includes specimens from land plants, algae, lichens, and fungi. It is the oldest museum facility on campus. With an extensive cryptogamic library and newly endowed Center for Phycological Documentation, maintenance, and care of the books and exsiccatae represent an additional aspect of the mission of the Herbarium. Now grown to 2,100,000 specimens, it is the sixth largest herbarium in the United States, the largest west of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the largest at a public university. Its collection of marine algae (seaweeds) is one of the best in the world and the finest in the western hemisphere.

The collections are a tool for basic research in systematics, ecology, phytogeography, and evolution. They are actively used in teaching, and are a resource for anatomical and biochemical investigations, and for identification of paleobotanical specimens. They provide population localities for studies ranging from biological control to rare plants.