The West Virginia University Herbarium, the largest facility of its kind in the state, contains about 185,000 mounted and cataloged vascular plant specimens and approximately 26,000 bryophyte and lichen specimens.
The Herbarium contains the only record in existence of hundreds of localities of
rare and endangered plants. Its collections are the basis of ongoing research by
the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and others
on the documentation of these species. A program has been developed, involving
about 56 institutions, to exchange specimens with other herbaria to strengthen
and expand the holdings.
The collection was started in 1889 and has steadily increased since then. It is designated a National Resource Collection, and contains the best collection in the world of West Virginia and Central Appalachian vascular plants. In addition, there are over 25,000 color photographic slides that comprise the Earl L. Core Botanical Slide Collection and over 2,000 seed collections in the Elizabeth A. Bartholomew Seed Collection.
The Herbarium also provides identification of plant material for a wide range of university, state and federal agencies as well as for private individuals. This service is often critical to research being done by these organizations.
The Herbarium supports introductory and specialized biology courses at WVU.
The Importance of Herbaria
The basic role of the herbaria is to provide a repository of essential voucher specimens collected for systematic and floristic research. Herbaria collections are the foundation for all studies of plant diversity and evolution. Specimens provide the foundation of nomenclature, the basis for identification, the common reference for communication and the vouchers for floras, as well as for evolutionary and genomic studies. Beyond their scientific importance, herbarium collections offer many benefits to society by providing data or reference materials for critical endeavors such as agriculture, human health, biosecurity, forensics, land management, conservation biology, natural resources and control of invasive species. They also provide information on our natural heritage and extend back hundreds of years. As a result, they provide the only reliable, verifiable record of the changes to our flora during the expansion of human population.