Maintained by
S.T. Bates

  Mycological herbaria act as repositories for fungal specimens.  These specimens are then made available to professional mycologists for study.  Students or private citizens are often allowed access to herbaria in order to study the specimens that are housed there.  Specimens act as models that can be used by the student to familiarize themselves with fungal species and genera or by the professional to form taxonomic concepts.  Special specimens called 'types' serves as a basis for mycologists to form and communicate species concepts.  These type specimens serve to ground the concept in reality, thus allowing other researchers to examine the actual specimen that a species was based on in order to form their own opinions.  In order to validly publish a new species name, the rules that govern the naming fungal taxa (the International Code of Botanical Nomeclature) requires that a type specimen representing the new species be housed in an institutional herbarium.

  Besides serving as objects of study, herbarium specimens can act as vouchers that validate scientific studies (e.g., biodiversity surveys) or they can be used to form catalogues of species to assist in the creation of local, state-wide, regional, or national fungal floras.  After a brief period where some believed herbaria were obsolete, the herbarium has garnered new respect.  This renewal came about as modern scientists realized that herbaria also act as repositories of genetic information.  It is not uncommon these days for researchers to remove a small portion of a specimen in order to extract DNA for studies related to genetics or evolution.  With the advance of computing power, modern herbaria often enter specimens and the information related to them into databases.  These databases are then made available via the World Wide Web to assist mycologists in searching for specimens or to provide raw data for researchers working in bioinformatics.

  Herbaria are managed by curators who are charged with preparing newly acquired specimens, caring for specimens already housed in the collection, overseeing efforts to database specimens, managing transactions such as loans, and serving as educators with a specialized knowledge of the collection and the organisms on which the collection is based.  Herbaria collections are often specialized themselves, with specimens originating from a specific country or a certain region.  In Arizona, two major fungal collections exist. The University of Arizona's Robert L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium (over 40,000 accessioned specimens) focuses on macrofungi from Arizona and the American Southwest and polypores from various regions in the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska.  Arizona State University's Lichen Herbarium (over 109,000 accessioned specimens) specializes in lichenized fungi from the Sonoran desert region, the Lecanorae and Xanthoparmeliae from around the world, and the Parmeliaceae of Latin America.


Herbaria Housing Specimens of  Arizona Macrofungi

New York Botanical Garden (NY)

Oregon State University Herbarium (OSC)

University of Arizona R.L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium (ARIZ)

University of Michigan Fungus Collection (MICH)

University of Tennessee Herbarium (TENN)

U.S. National Fungus Collections (BPI)


Other Herbaria Related Links

Arizona State University Lichen Herbarium (ASU)

Arizona State University Natural History Collections

Arizona State University Vascular Plant Herbarium (ASU)

HUH Index of Botanical Publications

Index Fungorum

Index Herbariorum

University of Arizona Vascular Plant Herbarium


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A type specimen of Geastrum arenarium.
(image by S.T. Bates)

A mycological herbarium - repository for fungal specimens.
(image by S.T. Bates)


The University of Arizona's Herring Hall, home of the Robert L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium.
(image by A.E. Arnold)


A herbarium cabinet at the Robert L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium.
(image by A.E. Arnold)