Herbarium at the Natural History Collections Building

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) pressThe herbarium is used as a source of plant material for studying species boundaries and phylogenetic relationships in several groups, including tropical relatives of willows and cottonwoods (Salicaceae) and local rabbit-tobaccos (Gamochaeta) and wild yams (Dioscorea). The herbarium is also an archive of plants that is useful for identifying unknowns, for recording presence of plants for specific places, for predicting flowering and fruiting times, and for testing keys and distribution maps for the Flora of North America project. Photos of our specimens can be found at Morphbank.

 

Dr. Mac Alford showing plant specimensIn 2005, Dr. Mac H. Alford (pictured at left) was hired as assistant professor of plant systematics and curator of the herbarium. He added new herbarium cases and a new dissecting microscope and has re-invigorated an active exchange and gift-for-determination program. Although his expertise is on tropical trees and shrubs, he had worked on a floristic project in Mississippi for his master's degree. Many of his contacts have contributed to the herbarium and to the herbarium library, helping to put the infrastructure and collections in place for an active research program in plant systematics. To learn more about the history of our herbarium, please visit their website.

 

The strengths of the USM herbarium are in aquatic and wetland plants and plants of the southeastern United States of America. Other strengths include rare and uncommon species in Mississippi. Significant collections include those by Charles Bryson (Carex and other Cyperaceae), Steven W. Leonard (Camp Shelby collections and uncommon plants throughout the region), and John MacDonald (Asteraceae and general collections). Exchange (and gifts) are appreciated of any taxa from anywhere in the world. We have previously collaborated with several southeastern institutions (DSPSIP) to database our collections and are now collaborating with other Mississippi institutions (Project Magnolia grandiFLORA) to complete the imaging, databasing, and georeferencing of the collections, thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation.