Celebrating the Ada Hayden Herbarium’s 150th Anniversary

January 18, 2021
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The Ada Hayden Herbarium has grown to ~660,000 specimens and is the 12th largest US university herbarium. Its holdings are diverse, Charles Besseyespecially for Iowa’s plants and fungi (including lichens), but also with significant holdings that reflect research from beyond the state’s borders. The University of Iowa Herbarium’s fungal holdings were transferred here in 1984, followed by the remainder of the U of I Herbarium in 2004. Lynn Clark has served as the Director and Deb Lewis as the Curator since the 1980s.

The roles of the Herbarium have increased greatly through time. Initially, specimens were collected and prepared to document mostly local studies and were subsequently used for on-campus research and teaching. Eventually, the Herbarium became part of a global network of herbaria, including sending specimen loans to researchers elsewhere. Today, the Ada Hayden Herbarium is participating in four consortia that support specimen digitization (imaging and databasing), making specimen information available worldwide. Specimens also serve as both a source and documentation for molecular research projects that would have been unimaginable to our early botanists.

Ada HaydenIn February, 1870, Charles Bessey arrived on campus as the College’s first Professor of Botany. As winter turned to spring, Dr. Bessey began collecting, pressing and drying specimens to create the Herbarium. He proudly stated in the Biennial Report of the College (1872) that the Herbarium had grown to more than 2500 specimens. The Herbarium, as a “library of plants”, formed a significant part of the Botanical Laboratory, the nation’s first for teaching undergraduate students. That legacy continued through the work of Louis Pammel, Ada Hayden, Richard Pohl, Duane Isely, Lois Tiffany and others, as well as our current faculty.

The Herbarium was named for Ada Hayden in 1988, when the 400,000th specimen was accessioned. She was ISU’s first woman to be awarded a PhD (1918); she curated the Herbarium from 1934-1950 and added her own 18,000+ meticulously prepared specimens.

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