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William A. Murrill
William A. Murrill

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The Fungal Collections of George Washington Carver at NYBG

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A Short Description of the Collections of The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium (NY): Fungi

The fungus herbarium, the second largest in the Western Hemisphere, comprises approximately 600,000 specimens. The foundation for this collection was laid when the Garden purchased the herbarium of Job Bicknell Ellis, a pioneer in North American mycology, who built his collection of more than 100,000 specimens over the course of 40 years. He not only collected extensively but also received material from all parts of the country and from many parts of Europe. All groups of fungi are represented in the Ellis herbarium, with the greatest emphasis placed on plant pathogens and micro-fungi in general. The collection includes the types of 4000 new specimens described by Ellis and collaborators.

The geographical strength of the mycological herbarium lies in collections from the Americas, both historical and contemporary. Staff members Fred J. Seaver  and Clark T. Rogerson  concentrated on North America. Rogerson conducted intensive studies on the fungi of Utah for more than 30 years. Two recently acquired herbaria have greatly expanded the depth of North American holdings: the Carnegie Museum (CM) fungus herbarium is noteworthy for its extensive representation of the fungi of Pennsylvania and adjoining states, and the University of Massachusetts (MASS) fungus herbarium brought probably the most complete set of New England fungi to the Garden.

The preeminent representation of the Garden's Herbarium of the mycota of Latin America was established through the efforts of staff members. Franklin Sumner Earle, the Gardens first mycologist, collected primarily plant pathogens in Cuba and Puerto Rico as well as in the southeastern United States. William A. Murrill  collected more than 70,000 specimens of polypores and agarics from the United States, Europe, Mexico, South America, and the West Indies. Kent P. Dumont  carried out a very active collecting program in tropical America. He made more than 25,000 collections in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. Gary J. Samuels (staff member, 1966-1973, 1984-1989) deposited thousands of his collections (primarily ascomycetes) from Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, New Zealand, Panama, and Venezuela. Roy Halling (staff member, 1983-present) has contributed specimens primarily of Agaricales from his research programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Venezuela, as well as from his earlier studies in North America (primarily California and New England).

Certain groups of fungi are particularly well represented in the Garden's mycological herbarium. The combination of the myxomycete collections of Ellis, Robert Hagelstein, and William Codman Sturgis make the Garden's collection probably the largest in North America and one of the most important collections of myxomycetes in the world. The strong foundation in pyrenomycetes, established through the acquisition of the Ellis herbarium, has been supplemented through the research of staff members Rogerson and Samuels (Hypocreales) and the herbarium of Margaret E. Barr (from the University of Massachusetts). The discomycete collection is significant because it contains vouchers from the works on North American discomycetes by Seaver, worldwide studies by George E. Massee (whose herbarium was acquired in 1905 and 1910), and studies on the Sclerotiniaceae by Dumont. Especially significant collections in the basidiomycete herbarium include Hydnaceae (Lucien M. Underwood and Howard James Banker), boletes and polypores (Murrill), the agaric families Tricholomataceae (Howard E. Bigelow and Halling) and Russulaceae (Gertrude S. Burlingham), and gasteromycetes, especially hypogeous taxa (Sanford Myron Zeller).

Based on an article by Patricia K. Holmgren, Jacquelyn A. Kallunki &
Barbara M. Thiers in Brittonia, vol. 48(3): 287-288, ©1996

B&W photograph courtesy of The New York Botanical Garden Archives
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