A herbarium is a scientific collection of plant specimens, often dried and pressed, and can be vascular plants and parts, seeds, fungi, wood, lichens and bryophytes. The University of Florida Herbarium at the Florida Museum has holdings of approximately half of a million specimens.*
The collection includes specimens from every continent except Antarctica, but the geographic focus is circum-Caribbean (with an emphasis on Florida, the coastal plain of the southeastern U.S., Haiti, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Brazil).
The Florida Agricultural Experiment Station was established in March 1888 as a division of the Florida Agricultural College at Lake City.
Peter Henry Rolfs informally founded the Herbarium of Florida Agricultural College. He was a horticulturist and biologist from Iowa who came to Lake City as a professor of natural science, entomology, and botany for the Florida Agricultural College. By 1899, the herbarium consisted of 5000 sheets, comprising 1400 species, and 150 lichens.
The herbarium was moved by covered wagon to Gainesville when the Florida Agricultural College and the Agricultural Experiment Station were consolidated with the Kingsbury Academy of Ocala to form the University of Florida.
Erdman West came to the Herbarium, and subsequently was joined by Lillian Arnold in the 1930s, and the collection began to flourish. By 1935 the collection had 19,000 sheets of higher plants and 14,300 collections of fungi.
The herbarium collection contained 138,880 specimens, including specimens of lichens, liverworts, mosses, wood blocks, ferns and fungi. These came from staff and private collectors, institutional gifts and exchanges, and significant donations of holdings from the Florida State Museum and other institutions.
1981 to present
The herbarium was incorporated into the Department of Natural Sciences of the Florida Museum of Natural History and Dr. Norris H. Williams became Keeper of the Herbarium. Since joining the Museum, the herbarium has steadily grown both through field collections and donations of private herbaria. At the start of the millennium, the herbarium staff initiated a major effort to make the collections available on the internet through digitization and imaging of specimens.