History of the Duke Herbarium

Hugo L. Blomquist, who came to Duke in 1921 (then Trinity College), initiated the Duke University herbarium. The first significant expansion of the Duke herbarium came in 1930 when Blomquist arranged to purchase the collection of P.O. Schallert of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Schallert collection consisted of 16,000 specimens. About 12,000 of these were vascular plants and the rest were bryophytes, lichens, and algae. Schallert was a medical doctor with a master's degree in botany who had collected specimens from all over the world. "This addition to the Duke herbarium," the Alumni Register reported in June 1931, "brings the Duke collection of specimens of flowering plants to outstanding rank in the South."

Professor Henry J. Oosting joined the Department of Botany at Duke in 1932 as a plant ecologist and began a research program in vegetation analysis. Desperately needing a working herbarium for his vascular plant studies, he volunteered to serve as curator of the entire collection. Oosting had excellent training in systematics, first at Michigan State University under Darlington, and with Rosendahl and Butters at the University of Minnesota, where he studied ecology with Cooper. It was Oosting’s interests and energies that organized and guided the Duke herbarium into a working facility.

When Robert L. Wilbur joined the Botany Department in 1957, the vascular plants numbered approximately 130,000 specimens. The collection has nearly tripled in size since that time as a result of Wilbur's extensive personal collecting activities and some very high-profile students and colleagues working in the Neotropics.

Don Stone joined the Botany Department at Duke in 1963 and initiated a long-term association with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS).  Stone and Wilbur trained many graduate students that went on to collect neotropical taxa.  Stone continues to work on the Juglandaceae, and is currently collaborating with others to establish a 25 hectare plot at the LaSelva Biological Station in Costa Rica to study phylogenetic diversity and community-level functional ecology.

Paul Manos was appointed to the Botany Department faculty in 1995. Manos and his students have added to the vascular collection through field work in both the New and Old World tropics.

Kathleen Pryer joined the department in 2001 with a strong commitment to the vascular plant herbarium, and particularly the pteridophyte collection.

For information in the history of the bryophyte collection, see the history page for the L.E. Anderson Herbarium.

History of the William Louis & Chicita F. Culberson Herbarium and Library is available here.