Botany at Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Carnegie Museum's Herbarium (CM) is the major botanical facility in the Upper Ohio Valley region and ranks among the top 25 herbaria in North America. In addition to large holdings from the region, the more than 540,000 vascular plant specimens include worldwide geographic and taxonomic representation.
Section of Botany Collection
Outside of western Pennsylvania, for which the museum's collection is the best in the world, the greatest number of specimens are from the rest of North America (especially arctic Canada, southeastern United States, and western United States), followed by Latin America and Asia. Carnegie Museum of Natural History's herbarium has approximately 3,000 type specimens, which represent about 0.6 % of the collection.
The following special collections are included in the museum’s type specimens.
- Collections of C.G. Pringle from Mexico
- Collections of H.H. Smith from Columbia
- Collections of A.D.E. Elmer from Malaysia
- Collections of E. Palmer from Mexico
- Collections of M. Bang from Bolivia
- Ownbey's uniform-garden Allium (Liliaceae) collections, which includes many cytovouchers and types, a donation arranged by Research Associate Terry Jacobsen, one of Ownbey's last graduate students
- Types of Crataegus (Rosaceae) species from western Pennsylvania described by C.S. Sargent (Thomas & Boufford 1986)
- The private herbarium of Hannibal and Tyreeca Davis, which contains 20,000 specimens with a concentration on Rubus (Rosaceae) including topotypes, material compared to types, type photographs, and life history specimens with floricanes, primocanes, and other growth stages (Anonymous 1987; Davis 1990; Utech 1990)
- Collections of 35,000 slides donated mainly by Virginia Phelps, Wayne Harpster, Otto Jennings, and Werner Buker, all patrons of botany
Data from the herbarium specimens have been captured into an electronic relational database. Type specimen data and images can be found on JSTOR Global plants. The entire collection can be found at Mid-Atlantic Herbaria Consortium.
Contact Collection Manager Bonnie Isaac for more information about the collection and protocols for section visits.
Visits must be arranged in advance. Carnegie Museum of Natural History policy stipulates that visitors are only allowed in the collection when a member of the curatorial staff is present. Normal working hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Special arrangements may be made for consultation of specimens at other times for out-of-town visitors. To schedule a visit, contact the Collection Manager Bonnie Isaac.
Visitors who are not associated with another herbarium are not allowed free access to the main collection without explicit permission from curatorial staff. Specific material will be brought to such visitors. To facilitate use of the herbarium as an aid in identifying the local flora, a separate Pennsylvania Synoptic Collection is maintained in the Upper Herbarium and is available to all visitors.
All plant material must be frozen before being brought into the herbarium. Contact Collection Manager Bonnie Isaac for more information about protocols for section visits.
The section's loan policy follows the suggestions outlined in The Herbarium Handbook (FORMAN, L. and D. BRIDSON. 1989. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew).
- Loan requests are accepted only from institutions with appropriate facilities for storage of herbarium specimens. Such institutions must accept responsibility for the safe custody and return of the loan. Loans are not made to individuals. Use of material by graduate students must be made under the supervision of a major professor.
- Loan requests should be addressed to the collection manager and should include the name of the borrower as well as a short description of the intended project.
- Loans of herbarium specimens are made for a period of two years with the exception of type specimens that are available for a period of three months. Renewals may be requested in writing to the collection manager. Except for type specimens, loans should be returned when the borrower is finished with them, even if this means partial returns. Type specimens must be returned via registered first class mail. Specimens must be carefully packed to avoid damage in transit.
- All specimens are to be treated with utmost care, thereby conserving them for future studies.
- Herbarium sheets should be returned with the proper annotation label by the investigator. Each annotation should include the accepted name of the taxon, the name and affiliation of the investigator, the date of identification, and the citations of any resulting publication. These should be typed or printed in permanent ink (not ballpoint pen).
- Approval must be granted by the collection manager in order to remove any material from loaned mounted specimens. In addition, please note the following rules for any destructive sampling (see Forman and Bridson  for additional recommendations on removal of samples from herbarium material). No material may be removed from type specimens or specimens of historical importance. Suitable loose material may be present in packets, avoiding the need to remove additional parts from a mounted specimen.
Pollen should be taken from no more than one flower per sheet, being extremely careful not to damage the flower. Follow Forman and Bridson (1989) for selecting anatomical, phytochemical, cytological, and seed samples.
An annotation label must reflect the portion of plant material removed, date of removal, investigator, institution, place of deposit of prepared slides, photos, and/or GenBank accession number. Duplicate slides or photos must be deposited with CM.
For DNA studies, the researcher must provide CM with location and storage method of any leftover sample. Storage facility must be permanent. Carnegie Museum of Natural History Herbarium reserves the right to request DNA or sequence material originally obtained from CM specimens.
- Researchers are asked to send the collection manager reprints of any publications which result from the study of borrowed specimens and to cite CM in their publication.
- By Mason Heberling Do you think Punxsutawney Phil was ever overcome by the beauty of this very violet 71 years ago? Or …Read More »
- By Bonnie Isaac It’s cold outside! There is snow on the ground. How could this possibly be good for plants? Many of …Read More »
- By Mason Heberling Biological collections are at the heart of the natural history museum. Biological collections are large and diverse, with specimens …Read More »
Section of Botany Found in Museum Displays
The museum's historic Botany Hall investigates the incredible diversity of plant life. The hall emphasizes four different biomes found in the continental United States—a Florida Everglades wetland, a Mount Rainier alpine meadow, an Arizona desert, and a Pennsylvania valley. All illustrate how varying conditions of temperature and water affect plant life. The displays allow for an in-depth look at the world of plants, recreating habitats from around the world.
Avinoff Wildflower Paintings
In 1941, Carnegie Museum of Natural History Director Andrey Avinoff began an ambitious project with friend and Curator of Botany Otto E. Jennings. They wanted to describe and illustrate the flora of western Pennsylvania, based on Jennings’s lifelong study of the region. Jennings and his colleagues brought in the living plants, fresh and unwithered. Avinoff worked quickly to capture accurately the color and manner of growth. Many of these specimens were then dried, pressed, and placed as vouchers in the herbarium. Selected Avinoff reprints are available for purchase for $25.