Did you ever make a leaf collection? The Friesner Herbarium is a systematic collection of over 100,000 dried, pressed and preserved plant specimens. The Herbarium, third largest in the state, grew out of the personal collections of Dr. Ray C. Friesner, Professor and Chair of the Botany Department, 1920-1952. Many students and other Butler faculty have contributed plants through the years. The specimens, with their carefully documented labels, comprise a reference library on historical distribution, habitats, and timing of flower and fruit production. The collection’s voucher specimens serve to verify plant identification.
Although the Herbarium contains plants from around the world, the collection emphasizes plants of Indiana. The collection has samples of 96% of the approximately 2500 taxa of native Indiana plants. Multiple specimens are present for most plants, providing more information than single drawings or photographs from books to assist in learning what a plant looks like. Most of our collections were made during the first half of the century and now constitute documentation of Indiana’s historical vegetation. They also provide information on the habitat (e.g., woods, swamp, prairie) where plants were collected and would likely be found again.
The collection is of great value to professional botanists; information can be shared through a network of exchange and loan of specimens. Students, faculty, and staff from Butler’s Department of Biological Sciences use the Herbarium as a reference. In addition, the Herbarium holdings are available to enrich teaching and laboratory exercises for students in biology classes. Read the article about Friesner Herbarium published in Brittonia.
Recent examples of the use of the Friesner Herbarium include a local allergist who wanted to collect pollen from allergy-causing grasses and a USDA researcher who was looking for locations for Cuphea, a native plant with seed oil properties similar to coconut oil. Currently, there is no domestic source of coconut oil. We helped him locate a site near Bloomington where the plant was collected in the 1930s. He was able to find the plant still growing on the same roadside. This summer we have helped a junior high school teacher inventory plants in a woods on the property of a new school building, identified shrubs in a Butler faculty member’s yard, and helped several people from the community to identify wildflowers.
The Herbarium is open to the public by appointment. Call (317) 940-8302, or e-mail Interim Herbarium Director, Marcia Moore, at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a visit. The staff can assist with identification of plants you bring in and can also help you to locate sites where plants you wish to find may grow.
Be sure to visit our Herbarium Specimen Digital Image Collection which now contains 43,508 images and data of our Indiana specimens. This now comprises most of our Indiana collection, with new specimens and images added every year. We are now beginning the process of imaging our out of state and foreign holdings.
Other Indiana flora projects and community outreach work of the Friesner Herbarium can be found under “Projects”.