THE UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO, HERBARIUM
by Arnold Tiehm
The herbarium of the University of Nevada, Reno is two herbaria combined under one roof: The herbarium of the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station (acronym NESH) from the College of Agriculture and the herbarium of the Biology Department (acronym RENO) in the College of Arts and Sciences. They were fully integrated in 1978 and operate as one unit using the acronym RENO (Holmgren, et al., 1990).
The Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station Herbarium
The nationwide Agricultural Experiment Station system had its beginnings with the Hatch Act of 1887 (Doten, 1942). This provided each state and territory with an annual appropriation of $15,000 starting in 1888. The University in Reno began College level instruction in 1887 and its slim resources precluded an independent experiment station. The experiment station existed on paper but its resources and personnel were shared with the University. It wasn't until 1912 that the experiment station became a distinct unit supported by it's own funds and staff (Doten, 1942). This separation was maintained until the 1950s when the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station (NAES) and the Cooperative Extension Service were merged with the College of Agriculture of the University of Nevada.
The first botanist of the NAES was Walter McNab Miller (Reifschneider, 1964). He is listed in the first annual report (dated 1 Feb 1889) of the NAES as botanist, chemist, and weather observer. His report on page 13 of the annual report reads: "The University has no collection of plants, but a week's expedition by the botanist last August into the northeastern part of the State, in the valleys of the Humboldt and Salmon Rivers, brought to the Station a number of plant specimens. This trip was taken not so much for the purpose of making a collection of plants, as to give to the botanist a first-hand knowledge of the more general features of the grazing regions of the state. I regarded it as being the preliminary step to a very thorough investigation of the general climatic, botanic, and hydrological features of the principal cattle ranges of the state. The good that will result from an investigation of this kind is invaluable, but it must be understood that time and means for carrying on the work must be granted the office in charge." Miller left the NAES the following year to devote full time to his teaching duties at the University of Nevada, Reno (see second annual report of the NAES, page 5, 1889).
The third annual report (dated 26 Nov 1890) relates the news of the hiring of a new botanist Fred Hebard Hillman. On page 31 Hillman writes: "The Department of Entomology and Botany was organized in June, 1889, when the work of entomological investigation was added to the work in botany. On taking charge of the work of the department July 23, 1889, I found the entire equipment consisted of a small quantity of insect pins, corks and printed labels: a good supply of botanical and mounting paper, some printed botanical labels and fifty or more botanical specimens, partly mounted and partly in press. In the Station library were a half dozen or more works relating to the subjects of entomology and botany. The work on further equipment was begun immediately and continued from time to time till the department is now fairly well supplied with apparatus sufficient to carry on practical work. Other apparatus will be needed, however, as the demands of the department increase." On page 33 Hillman adds: "The formation of a herbarium is well under way. It now contains nearly 2,000 specimens representing local species. The acquisition of many valuable specimens by exchange is planned."
Hillman's early publications were on entomology, specifically insect pests on roses and fruit trees (Hillman, 1890 a-d). He continued to add to the herbarium and, beginning in 1891, was aided in plant collecting by one of his students, Peter Frandsen.
In the fourth annual report (dated 31 Jan 1892) Hillman notes: "In Botany the study of the flora of this section of the State has been continued with the aim of increasing our knowledge of its general character. Special attention has been directed toward the weeds, also the wild forage plants have been sought especially when collecting. A species of dodder (Cuscuta epithymum), a parasitic plant has been found in some of our alfalfa fields, where it has gained a strong foothold and does great damage to the alfalfa. This species, in collection with two others, has received considerable attention. The result of this appears in Bulletin No. 15" (Hillman, 1892). Hillman also talks about receiving insect collections for determination. He gives collecting guidelines including sending the plant being infested by injurious insects. His guidelines for plant collections are quite informative: "When plants are sent, care should be taken to send also flowers open and in bud, and also, if possible, the ripened or nearly ripened fruit. These latter are often necessary in identifying the plant. While these specimens aid us in replying to inquiries sent, they also add greatly to our Station collections, which as yet are small and very incomplete. Any specimens of interest that are sent to us will be very gratefully received, and any reasonable expense incurred in sending such will be refunded."
The fifth annual report (dated 27 Jan 1893) shows that Hillman was continuing his floristic studies. "The work in botany has included a continued study of the local flora, making contributions to the herbarium of local plants, the identification of specimens sent to the station for determination, and considerable attention has been given to the weeds of this portion of the state. . ." Hillman's weed studies were published later in the year (Hillman, 1893 a-b)
Hillman continued to study the local flora and add to the herbarium. He notes in the sixth annual report (dated 31 Jan 1894): "Considerable time was devoted to the collection of miscellaneous plants with the view of having all the different species of local plants represented in the station herbarium. The Truckee Meadows and surrounding mountain sides were quite thoroughly explored in respect to the flora." Hillman adds in the seventh annual report (dated 5 Jan 1895): ". . . the collections in the station herbarium have been sufficiently augmented to now contain representatives of nearly all the plants of the territory worked over. Two excursions into the Sierra Nevada Mountains at different points have added a considerable number of representatives of the mountain flora." His research on the local flora resulted in a work useful to anyone interested in local plants: "Early flora of the Truckee Valley" (Hillman, 1894). Hillman was aided by another student, Samuel Bradford Doten, beginning in 1893.
A major topic of study was weeds and their seeds. Hillman recognized that many weeds were introduced as contaminants in crop seeds. He was interested in being able to purify seed. This led to his drawing seed illustrations on herbarium sheets. These studies were published as a fully illustrated work with remarkably clear, deft illustrations (Hillman, 1897). He later published more on the topic (Hillman 1900, a-b).
Hillman left the University in 1900 and the torch was passed to Patrick Beveridge Kennedy. Kennedy took over duties on 1 Jul 1900 as chairman of the Botany, Horticulture, and Entomology department. His handwritten report for the last six months of 1900 is most enlightening (archives, University of Nevada, Reno). ". . . The station herbarium however, consisting of about 10,000 plants, contained a very large number of specimens which were neither mounted or classified, and consequently not in workable condition. Steps were immediately taken to remedy this and have all specimens mounted and placed in a systematic and permanent form. . . While this work was progressing the fire of August 27th took place and destroyed the entire equipment of the department, with the exception of about twenty bundles of plants which were badly soaked with water and the edges of the papers burnt. The remaining months of the year were spent in drying out and going over these plants in order that as many as possible might be saved. This would not have been done were it not for the fact that many of these rescued plants had been collected from the summits of Mount Rose and Peavine Mountain, and represented considerable arduous labor on the part of the collector, Mr. S.B. Doten. Accompanying many of these plants were unusually excellent drawings of their morphology, the work of Prof. F.H. Hillman, a feature which few herbaria in the country possess. I am glad to be able to report that about five hundred plants in all proved to be worth saving, two hundred with, and three hundred without, the drawings." The fire was started by a box of recently received chemicals that were left unpacked.
Kennedy rapidly began rebuilding the herbarium as is noted in the undated annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1902. "The herbarium of the station is now well housed in cases built of galvanized iron which are dust and waterproof and arranged in sections so that they could be readily removed in case of fire or change of buildings. From the three or four hundred specimens which were resurrected after the fire, the number of plants has increased to over 5,000, nearly all of which are permanently mounted and determined. . . Specimens of Nevada plants have been sent to the following individuals and institutions by request or exchange: Arnas University, Villefranche, France; Division of Agrostology, Department of Agriculture; California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; University of Wyoming; Mrs. K. Brandegee, San Diego, California; and Charles P. Box, Akron, Ohio."
Others contributing specimens to the herbarium included staff members Thomas Washington Cowgill, Sanford Crosley Dinsmore, and Gorden Haines True, as well as students Charles Leroy Brown and Ott F. Heizer.
With Kennedy in charge and with the aid of interested staff and students the herbarium rapidly increased in size. The annual report for the fiscal year ending 30 Jun 1903 states: ". . . The herbarium now numbers about 6,000 specimens." The following fiscal year's annual report lists the total as "7,000 specimens." Kennedy had ambitious plans as the report shows: "An especial feature of the past year's work has been the systematizing and cataloguing of the indigenous genera and species on stock cards. This catalogue is arranged alphabetically for ready reference and is a complete record of the flora of the State up to the present time. It serves as a record for the indigenous plants of the State until a flora can be published”.
The next year's fiscal report (ending 30 Jun 1905) notes receiving a set of plants collected in Lincoln County in 1902 by Leslie Goodding and that Kennedy visited the same area in May of 1905, collecting about 500 specimens. His ambitions remained high: "Work on the publication of the flora of the State will soon be attempted."
It had long been the opinion of some that the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station should be just that, an Agricultural Experiment Station. Kennedy expressed his concerns on this subject in the annual report for the fiscal year ending 30 Jun 1906: "By some it is thought that it is not the province of an Experiment Station to maintain a herbarium of the native plants of its State. With us, however, it had been absolutely essential in the investigation of the range plants, weeds, poisonous and medicinal plants, the composition of the meadows, and alkali-resistant plants."
Kennedy's quote from the annual report for the fiscal year ending 30 Jun 1907 shows that things seem to have returned to normal, or at least back to the status quo: . . ."For the first time in seven years since the writer has had charge of the herbarium there has been much interest displayed by people in the State in regard to the flora of the State. This may perhaps be accounted for by the large influx of people who have poured in from other States."
In 1908 Amos Arthur Heller joined the staff of the NAES. He spent considerable time collecting mostly in the northern part of Nevada. The annual report for the fiscal year ending 30 Jun 1909 shows the activity of the herbarium. "The herbarium has been increased by 1,500 specimens during the year, 630 of which have come to us by exchange from the University of California, from Mr. S.B. Parish of San Bernardino, California, and from Mr. George E. Osterhout of New Windsor, Colorado. The remainder, amounting to 870 specimens, were collected by the members of the department. Of these 310 were obtained in California, 230 mainly from Plumas County, and 80 from the Yosemite Valley. Six weeks were spent in exploring the Ruby Mountain Forest Reserve, where a total of 560 numbers were collected. This expedition yielded a very large percentage of species not heretofore represented in the herbarium as the flora of the eastern part of the State is markedly different from that of the western part. In the collections mentioned above are to be found a large number of specimens of economic value, such as grasses, clovers, and lupines. The total number of specimens mounted and incorporated into the herbarium up to date is 10,376." It was Heller who spent six weeks in the Ruby Mountains.
The next two years saw a more modest rate of increase to the herbarium with the totals from the representative annual reports being "500" and "712". The annual report for the fiscal year ending 30 Jun 1912 lists the number of herbarium specimens as "over 12,000." Kennedy goes on to state: "As each year goes by we explore and collect the plants in different and often remote mountain ranges, thus adding to the knowledge of the plant life of the State. A large amount of time is taken up in naming and classifying this material. Dr. Heller and myself have had to do most of this work in the evening, as our work of teaching in the College of Agriculture and other work in the Station fully occupy the regular hours." He further adds: "We wish that the work remain under the supervision of this department at least until a flora of the State is written up. This had been our ambition for twelve years, but the State of Nevada is very large and we have had only a limited amount of time at our disposal for carrying out such a gigantic piece of work. Contrary to the general belief, the State of Nevada, owing to its great size, variation in climatic conditions and elevations, will, we earnestly believe, when thoroughly investigated, contain, at least, as many, if not more, distinct species of plants than any other State in the Union. Our only possible rival would be California."
Continued pressure to physically and financially separate the NAES from the University was brought to bear in 1912. Until then the director of the NAES had been the President of the University and NAES personnel taught University classes. This ended with the NAES being an autonomous organization with its own staff.
The annual report for the year ending June 30, 1913 (dated 5 Jan 1914) shows that Heller was working on a Flora of Nevada and was investigating the poplars and coniferous tress of Nevada. The report also states: "We now have about 14,000 sheets of plants in the herbarium, duly mounted and classified." In 1913 S.B. Doten was named director and he finalized the change in NAES research policy to that based solely on genuine problems of Nevada agriculture (Doten, 1942). This meant the end of Kennedy's dream of a Flora of Nevada. Heller left the NAES on 30 June 1913 and Kennedy left at the end of the year.
The departure of Heller and Kennedy left a plant collecting void that was never filled. Some staff members, such as Frank Burdette Headley and Neils Frederick Petersen, contributed occasional specimens but general floristic collecting was not attempted. Herbarium curatorial duties were carried out by Charles E. Fleming from 1916 to the late 1940s. Joseph H. Robertson was curator from 1947 to 1972. After Robertson's retirement a curatorial committee was established with Will Blackburn and then later, Paul Tueller serving as chairman.
An interesting note is found in the annual report of the NAES for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1906. Here Kennedy writes: "Up to the present time this has been the only herbarium in the State. This year the University has started a herbarium especially prepared for purposes of instruction. The Station has presented to the University almost an entire set from its duplicates and has aided in every way possible the new undertaking. The University Herbarium will be known as the ‘Great Basin Herbarium,’ and that of the Station as the ‘Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station Herbarium’. By some it is thought that it is not the province of an Experiment Station to maintain a herbarium of the native plants of its State. With us, however, it has been absolutely essential in the investigation of the range plants, weeds, poisonous and medicinal plants, the composition of the meadows, and alkali-resistant plants." It appears that this teaching collection was never established as a formal herbarium and its fate is unknown.
The biology department herbarium was started by Philip Augustus Lehenbauer in 1924 (Anonymous, 1949). Its establishment was preceded by policy changes that removed the NAES herbarium and equipment from use by the University (Reifschneider, 1964). Lehenbauer was aided in collecting by Loretta Wheeler and Charles Leroy Brown (Anonymous, 1949). Lehenbauer took an interest in plants used by the Indians for medicinal purposes and initiated the Indian Plant Institute that developed into the Indian Medicine Project. The Indian Medicine Project was a joint venture by the University of Nevada and the Bureau of Plant Industry of the U.S.D.A. Most of the collections were made in 1937 and 1938 with a few as late as 1940 (Anonymous, 1949). Over 12,000 herbarium specimens were gathered making it the largest collecting project involving the RENO herbarium. Collectors included William Andrew Archer, Ira La Rivers, Roy A. Allen, Benjamin O. Moore, George E. Franklin, Newell Francis Hancock, and Percy Train.
Lehenbauer remained as curator until 1938 when William Dwight Billings took over duties and remained until 1952 (Anonymous, 1949). Billings made collections in conjunction with his ecological studies of the plant associations of western Nevada (Billings, 1945, 1949, 1950).
Hugh Nelson Mozingo joined the staff in 1959 and assumed the role of curator. He retired in 1985 after overseeing the Biology Department herbarium merger with the NAES herbarium. During his tenure several floristic studies were based at the RENO herbarium or deposited sets of their specimens there. An example of the latter are the collections made by Janice Beatley on the Nevada Test Site, a part of Nevada that is still inaccessible, for political reasons, to conventional collecting (Tiehm, 1996). Beatley published numerous papers on the ecology and rare plants of the region culminating in a local flora (Beatley, 1976).
For many years various people made collections on the University owned "George Whittell Forest and Wildlife Area", geographically known as Little Valley. This research area is situated in the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada, west of Washoe Valley. These collections resulted in a checklist for the area (Tiehm & Mozingo, 1976).
In the early 1970s Margaret Jensen Williams and John Thomas Howell began intensive collecting on nearby Peavine Mountain. They were later joined by Gordon Haines True, Jr., and Arnold Tiehm. The Peavine collections greatly enhanced the RENO herbarium and the result is another local flora (Williams et al., 1992). Williams was an elementary school teacher with a deep interest in botany and gardening (Tiehm, 2000). Beginning in 1967 she donated mounted specimens to the RENO herbarium that reached a total of 11,419 in 1994. She also contributed many duplicate specimens to the RENO exchange program and these resulted in many more additions to the herbarium.
In 1978 the U.S. Fish and wildlife Service conducted a vascular plant survey of the Charles Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in the NW corner of Nevada. This study, conducted through the RENO herbarium, found a number of plants new to Nevada and extended the range of others. A report of these findings appeared the next year (Rogers & Tiehm, 1979).
For his Master's thesis at the University of Nevada, Reno, Matthew Lavin wrote a floristic account of the upper Walker River. He collected extensively in the upper Walker River drainage in Nevada and California and published his results (Lavin, 1983).
In recent years the RENO herbarium has received large gifts of specimens from two individuals, David Alan Charlet, and William Harnach. Charlet conduct a survey of the conifers of Nevada and published a comprehensive account of them (Charlet, 1996). Harnach has been working on a flora of nearby Sierra Valley in California.
Tiehm began collecting plants in 1974 when he started graduate school. His early collections were all deposited in the RENO herbarium. Included in these were his extensive aquatic collections made in 1977 in conjunction with his Master's Degree work. After a stint at the New York Botanical Garden he moved back to Nevada in late 1988. Since then his Nevada explorations have yielded many specimens that have been given to the RENO herbarium. He also contributed many duplicates to the exchange program which has been active, among others, with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Oregon State University, and the University of Washington. He has also volunteered many hours working in the herbarium and is responsible for, among other things, the mounting of specimens.
Since Mozingo's departure in 1985 the successive curators have been Susan Koniak, Lynda Nelson, Belinda Love, and from 1995 to 2008, Christy Malone.
Anonymous. 1949. University herbarium houses Nevada plants. Reno Evening Gazette, 18 January, page 12.
Beatley, J. 1976. Vascular plants of the Nevada Test Site and central-southern Nevada: Ecologic and geographic distributions. Technical Information Center, Office of Technical Information, Energy Research and Development Administration, Springfield, VA. 308 PP
Billings, W.D. 1945. The plant associations of the Carson Desert region, western Nevada. Butler Univ. Bot. Stud. 7: 89-132.
. 1949. The shadscale vegetation zone of Nevada and eastern California in relation to climate and soils. Amer. Midl. Naturalist 42: 87-109.
. 1950. Vegetation and plant growth as affected by chemically altered rocks in the western Great Basin. Ecology 31: 62-74.
Charlet, D.A. 1996. Atlas of Nevada conifers. A phytogeographic reference. University of Nevada Press, Reno, NV. 320 pp.
Doten, S.B. 1942 . The Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station. 1888-1943. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 163: 1-75.
Hillman, F.H. 1890a. The codling moth. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 8: 1-8.
. 1890b. A serious rose pest. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 9: 1-4.
. 1890c. The pear and cherry slug. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 10: 1-4.
. 1890d. Plant-lice infesting the apple. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 11: 1-7.
. 1892. Dodder (Cuscuta) parasitic on alfalfa. Nevada. Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 15: 1-8.
. 1893a. Nevada weeds I. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 21: 1-15.
. 1893b. Nevada weeds II. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 22: 1-11.
. 1894. Early flora of the Truckee Valley. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 24: 1-95.
. 1897. Nevada weeds III. Nevada and other weed seeds. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 38: 1-131.
. 1900a. Clover seeds and their impurities. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 47: 1-90.
. 1900b. Nature studies III. Some ways of seed distribution. Nevada Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 48: 1-10.
Holmgren, P.K., N.H. Holmgren & L.C. Barnett. 1990. Index herbariorum, 8th ed. Regnum Vegetabile 120: 1-693.
Lavin, M.T. 1983. Floristics of the upper Walker River, California and Nevada. Great Basin Naturalist 43: 93-130.
Reifschneider, O. 1964. Biographies of Nevada botanists 1844-1963. University of Nevada Press, Reno, NV. 165 pp.
Rogers, B.S. & A. Tiehm. 1979. Vascular plants of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, with special reference to possible threatened and endangered species. U.s. Fish & Wildlife Service, Portland, OR. 87 pp.
Tiehm, A. 1996. Nevada vascular plant types and their collectors. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 77: 1-104.
. 2000. Tribute to Margaret. Northern Nevada Native Plant Society Newsletter 26(7): 1-7.
& H.N. Mozingo. 1976. An introduction to the flora of the George Whittell Forest and Wildlife area. University of Nevada, Reno, NV. 6 pp.
Williams, M.J., J.T. Howell, G.H. True, Jr. & A. Tiehm 1992. A catalogue of vascular plants on Peavine Mountain. Mentzelia 6, part 2: 3-83.
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