Founded in 1869, the Shirley C. Tucker Herbarium at Louisiana State University is the oldest collection of preserved plant specimens in the Gulf South and is the second largest collection of Louisiana plants. Originally composed entirely of specimens of vascular plants, LSU's herbaria now also include fine collections of lichens and fungi, as well as bryophytes and algae. In all, the LSU Herbaria contain ca. 180,000 specimens, with over 40,000 lichens (the largest lichen collection in the Gulf Region) and ca. 25,000 fungi (the second-largest collection of its kind in this region). The fungal collection, named the Bernard Lowy Mycological Herbarium, is rich in Neotropical wood-decaying fungi. Gulf Coast plants, lichens, and bryophtyes are well represented in the collections. The LSU Herbaria are an essential resource for research, teaching, and public service. Related publications cover topics such as wildflowers of Louisiana, ecology of Gulf Coast marshes, medicinal plants of the Gulf South, systematics of Asteraceae, conservation of tropical rain forests, lichen biodiversity, floral development, and more.
Shirley Tucker, Bernard Lowy, and Clair Brown
A revitalization of the herbarium in the 1990's was helped by several events. In 1991, the herbarium received a large grant from the State of Louisiana to computerize the collections, and this work is an ongoing project. Dr. Tom Wendt (now at U of Texas), a specialist in Mexican rain forest trees, joined the herbarium in the same year as Associate Director. Dr. Mark Mayfield (now at Kansas State), and subsequently Dr. Diane Ferguson, continued as associate directors at LSU into the new millenium. A series of National Science Foundation awards begun in 2009, lead to completed databases for the herbaria's North American collections under guidance of the new collections manager.
Commissioned by LSU in 1976 and completed in 1991, a series of watercolor drawings by the internationally known botanical artist MargaretStones of England commemorated the bicentennial year. Lowell Urbatsch, Director of the LSU Herbarium, provided the botanical text. This work was supported by many local Louisianians and carried out in conjunction with LSU Herbarium personnel.
In 1992, the Clair Brown Memorial Endowment was established, being named after the long-time Director of the Herbarium and author of Wildflowers of Louisiana and Adjoining States, Trees of Louisiana, and many other botanical works. This fund is growing through private contributions and provides income entirely for herbarium use. The Herbarium also boasts a rapidly growing herbarium library which includes the very fine collections donated by Clair Brown, Bernard Lowy, Shirley Tucker, Samuel Meyers, Meredith Blackwell, and Florence Givens. The herbarium library is complemented by important botanical works in the LSU Middleton Library, including many rare works in the outstanding Special Collections housed in the adjacent Hill Memorial Library.
In addition to increased staff and funding, LSU moved the herbarium to a new building, the Life Sciences Annex, completed in April 2001. The 6,000 ft2 herbarium complex is designed to hold a maximum of 800,000 accessions in a compactorized storage system. The facility also includes a new library, three research carrels, a dedicated server for the database, a spacious workroom, an ultracold freezer, and a plant drier. The goals of the LSU Herbarium are to become the premier collection of Louisiana and Gulf Coast plants and to become a resource of international importance for the plants and fungi of the northern part of the New World Tropics.
Brother Arsène was a French monk, teacher, and botanist who collected approximately 900 plants in Louisiana in the 1910's and 1920's, of which 60 were new species.
About 3,300 specimens from the main herbarium are kept separate as the historic collection. Specimens deemed to be of historical importance include all nineteenth-century material, and significant collections dating into the 1920’s from Louisiana and adjoining states. The historic collection is organized and stored separately from the main collection where it will remain available for study yet receive less wear and tear than the specimens in the main herbarium.
The Shirley C. Tucker Herbarium of the Department of Biological Sciences prepared and accessioned their 100,000th vascular plant specimen and had a celebration October 8, 2001. Leigh Rhodes, a Chancellor's Aide student, prepared the specimen for the herbarium. The specimen was collected in 1990 by Jose Lavalle from Teznekht, Morocco, and is an unusual member of the nightshade family, Withania adpressa. The plant was acquired in an ongoing exchange of specimens with the Jardin Botanique National de Belgique in Meise, Belgium.
According to the herbarium director, Dr. Lowell Urbatsch, the vascular plant herbarium has added ca. 65,000 collections since his arrival in 1975, more than doubling it's size since its establishment in 1869.