Chicago Botanic Garden

PHOTO: herbarium

Plant Science

Nancy Poole Rich Herbarium

In order to conserve plant species, it is necessary to identify the plants that exist in a region and know where rare species are located. Taxonomy is fundamental to all other research efforts.

The Garden's Nancy Poole Rich Herbarium is a reference collection of preserved plants serving these functions:

  • Scientific research, such as describing a new plant species, comparing unidentified plants against known species, or determining the variability between closely and distantly related plants

  • Educational purposes such as training staff and volunteers in the identification of native plants, and for use in courses in plant taxonomy and morphology

  • Exchange between museums, gardens, and universities to support the research projects at other institutions

The Garden's herbarium has the capacity to house 33,000 herbarium specimens. Currently it houses about 12,000 specimens. This includes specimens from the following:

  • The Flora of Cook County Collection
  • Regional flora of the Upper Midwest
  • Plant exploration trips to Russia, Korea, and China
  • Horticultural and native plants in the Garden's living collections
  • Research projects
  • A teaching collection of representative families and genera

With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Garden, in partnership with The Morton Arboretum and the Field Museum of Natural History, is making its herbarium database and images of representative specimens available on vPlants: The Chicago Regional Virtual Herbarium.