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WVU Herbarium Land Grant Mission

LAND GRANT MISSION by Rose Strickland-Constable:

WVU has a proud history as a land-grant university. Its mission is to improve the lives of West Virginians, both through meeting higher education needs and through applied research. The WVUHerbarium is an important part of this history, serving the needs of naturalists, agriculturalists and biologists for over 100 years. Scientific plant specimens are vitally important for scientific research, as they provide a record of the presence, distribution and morphology of a plant through time; the Herbarium is a library of such specimens, providing an invaluable catalogue of West Virginia flora.

The origins of the WVU Herbarium date back to the first years of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. Established in 1888, the Station was a vital part of the land-grant mission of the university, providing facilities for research that would benefit rural communities throughout the state. The first director, John A. Myers, recognised the importance of botanical knowledge in improving agricultural practices. Charles F. Millspaugh was hired as Botanist and Microscopist in 1889 to study agricultural weeds and to survey the botanical resources of the state. In 1913, he published The Living Flora of West Virginia, describing more than 3,400 plant species found in the state. His collection remained with the university, forming the basis of the Herbarium.

Since Millspaugh, the WVU Herbarium has thrived in the hands of notable botanists and collectors, including John L. Sheldon, Perry D. Strausbaugh and Earl L. Core. The collection now numbers more ca. 170,000 specimens, of which about half originate from West Virginia. It is actively involved in research in botany, ecology and conservation, and provides services to diverse groups, including the WV Division of Natural Resources, WVU Extension Service, and WV Native Plant Society. With increasing awareness of the value of biodiversity and the threats of invasive exotic species, the WVUHerbarium continues to be an important asset for the state of West Virginia, and exemplifies the ethos of the land-grant university.