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Collections

The MSU Herbarium has a worldwide collection of all groups of plants, as well as lichenized and non-lichenized fungi. Current holdings number about 522,800 specimens, with approximately 324,200 specimens of vascular plants, 126,400 lichenized fungi, 41,800 non-lichenized fungi, 26,100 bryophytes, and 4,300 algae. Over 2,000 type specimens are housed here. 

  Taxonomic Holdings Pie Chart

 With over half a million specimens, the MSU Herbarium is the 27th largest herbarium in the United States, according to Index Herbariorum.  The lichen collection is among the 10 largest in North America and has many important holdings from poorly-collected areas around the world. Holdings in the MSU Herbarium also include non-lichenized fungi, bryophytes, and a small collection of algae.         Holdings by Geographic Origin Pie Chart
The MSU Herbarium is focused on plant and fungal diversity of Michigan, the Great Lakes and North America, as well as global  lichen diversity. The vascular plant collection is recognized as a primary source for the study of the flora of the Great Lakes region and we have many important collections from Mexico and southeast Asia. Our lichen collection covers North America, and is rich in specimens from the Caribbean, island systems from around the world, and the subantarctic region.                                    

Holdings at the MSU Herbarium as percentages

Location

Vascular

Lichens

Bryophytes

Algae

Microfungi

Michigan

22.0

14.3

24.4

0.8

15.1

North America (excl. MI and Mexico)

49.0

48.7

38.9

87.1

71.3

Mexico, Latin America, and Caribbean

16.0

22.5

23.5

3.7

1.9

Asia

10.0

0.8

0.1

0.5

0.1

Europe

5.3

0.6

6.5

11.4

Africa

1.1

0.0

0.8

0.0

Australia and Oceania

7.3

12.5

0.5

0.0

Cultivated

3

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

 

Vascular plant collection

The vascular plant collection contains approximately 324,200 specimens, including nearly 70,000 from the Michigan and Great Lakes region. Due to the contributions of the historic Cooley collection and many of the vouchers from the First Geological Survey of Michigan by George Houghton and his colleagues, our holdings provide a good representation of Michigan Flora dating back to the 1820s and 1830s. Some of our other notable holdings include Bornean and Mexican collections of Dr. John Beaman and his colleagues, Bahama Islands collections of Dr. William T. Gillis, North American floristic collections of Dr. John Churchill, the historical wheat variety collection of Dr. William James Beal, and the Michigan and Great Lakes floristic collection. Our collection of North American and Mexican Asteraceae is also especially strong, with many specimens collected by Dr. Beaman or received on exchange from his colleagues. 

Many of our vascular plants are available to search online. Michigan State University Herbarium holds approximately 2,000 vascular plant type specimens. Most of these are available on the JSTOR Global Plants database. 

Holotype of Medinilla beamanii

Holotype of Medinilla beamanii, collected by John H. Beaman et al., 1983.

  

Lichen collection

The lichen collection at the MSU Herbarium, with approximately 126,400 accessioned specimens, is among the 10 largest in North America and, because of its geographic scope, is of international importance. Our lichen collection includes specimens representing approximately 4000 taxa, but in addition to its overall size, geographical diversity, and comprehensive coverage it also includes an extensive collection of exsiccati, many type specimens, and numerous other collections of historical significance.

The collection was assembled largely by Dr Henry A. Imshaug (curator of the Cryptogamic Herbarium from 1958 to 1990) and his graduate students, who included I. M. Brodo, R. C. Harris & C. M. Wetmore, among others. Recent growth can be largely attributed to Dr. Alan Friday during his tenure as Assistant Curator.

The collection is notable for its extensive holdings of crustose taxa, and for collections from rarely-visited island groups of the Southern Hemisphere, and the exsiccati collection, which contains nearly 12,000 specimens, many of which are not otherwise available in North America. Further details about Imshaug’s collection can be found here

More details on the history of this collection can be found on the History of the MSU Herbarium Page. For information on accessing specimens online, click here.

Holotype of Megalaria imshaugii

Holotype of Megalaria imshaugii collected by Henry A. Imshaug, 1970.

  

Non-lichenized fungi collection

The non-lichenized fungi collection, containing approximately 41,800 specimens is made up of specimens from North America, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Major contributions of this collection come from the efforts of Elam Bartholomew, who collected and distributed many Exsiccati, mainly in the United States, and J. Dearness, who contributed over one thousand Canadian specimens. Hundreds of specimens were also added to this collection by Dr. William James Beal.

While they are not fungi, this collection also contains slime molds, including 47 collected by the famed C. J. Alexopoulos, mycologist who taught at MSU from 1952 to 1956. During his time at MSU, Alexopoulos also published his text, Introductory Mycology.

Click here to explore the digitized collections. 

Slime mold and label data

Slime mold, from the collection of Alexopoulos,1949. Image credit: Matt Chansler.

  

Bryophyte collection

The bryophyte collection holds over 26,100 specimens. About one quarter of the specimens are from Michigan, with 39 percent coming from other regions of North America (excluding Mexico), 23.5 percent from Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean, 12.5 percent from Australia and Oceania, and select specimens from Asia, Europe, and Africa.  A significant proportion of our moss collection came from John A. Churchill and John J. Engel, who each deposited well over one thousand bryophyte specimens to the MSU Herbarium. 

Click here to explore the digitized collections. 

Moss specimen

Largest moss species in the world, collected by previous curator, Dr. John H. Beaman. Image credit: Matt Chansler.

  

Algae collection

The algae collection holds over 4,300 specimens collected from 31 countries around the world. Over one third of the macroalgae specimens were collected by F. S. Collins, Josephine E. Tilden, and N. L. Gardner. While a majority of these were collected in the United States, hundreds came from Bermuda, Germany, and Canada. Bermuda specimens were largely collected by F. S. Collins and A. B. Hervey during their expeditions in the early 1900s. 

Click here to explore the digitized collections. 


 

Mounted algae specimen

Chara, collected by MSU researcher Angela Depalma-Dow from Isle Royale National Park. Image credit: Matt Chansler.

  


Learn more about other collections on the MSU campus at the Collection Council Website!