The University of Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Herbarium mounted its 1 millionth specimen on January 24. Members of the UW Board of Trustees were on hand in the Aven Nelson Building to witness the historic event.
“The addition of a millionth specimen to a herbarium is a major accomplishment,” Director Greg Brown says. “The Rocky Mountain Herbarium is the most significant natural history collection in Wyoming and the dominant, most important herbarium in the entire Rocky Mountain region. It was important to have the Board of Trustees in attendance not only because of these facts, but to recognize the fact that this is an area of modern science where UW is a recognized leader and truly on the cutting edge of science.”
The specimen chosen to be 1 millionth was Castilleja linariifolia, which is Wyoming’s state flower and is commonly known as Indian paintbrush. This species can be found in many locations across the state.
Established in the fall semester of 1899, the Rocky Mountain Herbarium is the largest facility of its kind between St. Louis and the West Coast. It currently ranks 56th among the 3,324 herbaria in the world and 14th in the United States. It is the fifth largest herbarium at a public U.S. university.
The herbarium is rich in specimens throughout the United States, Canada and northern Europe, but it specifically boasts the largest collection of Wyoming and Rocky Mountain plants in the world to reflect the region’s biological diversity and evolutionary history.
The herbarium is working with several other partners to create a comprehensive digital archive of plant specimens native to the southern Rocky Mountain region as part of a $2.9 million award from the National Science Foundation in 2017. As the largest herbarium in the region, the Rocky Mountain Herbarium has contributed a significant number of specimens, while assisting smaller institutions in their digitizing and imaging efforts.
For more information on the herbarium and to see the progress of the digitization project, visit www.uwyo.edu/botany/rocky-mountain-herbarium/index.html.
In 2007, the Wyoming State Library published a story featuring the Rocky Mountain Herbarium in the Wyoming Library Roundup. Read it here.