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.

Collections Represented in the Fungal Herbarium

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).

The Fungal Collections of George Washington Carver at NYBG

George Washington Carver was an extraordinary scientist and role model. To this day, his name is synonomous with African American ability and achievement. He represents a man who has contributed greatly to science throughout his lifetime. Carver was born of slave parents on a farm near Diamond Grove, Missouri, around 1864. His boyhood, which was full of struggle against poverty and illness, ended when he entered Simpson College in Iowa, and from there he went on to Iowa State University. After graduation, he received the appointment of Assistant Botanist at the Experiment Station. In 1896 he became Head of the Agricultural and Dairy Department at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Very soon after his arrival in Tuskegee in 1896, Carver cooperated with Franklin Sumner Earle, the Chair of Biology and Horticulture in the Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn, Alabama, in compiling a preliminary list of the fungi of Alabama which was later published. This study formed the basis of a relationship that lasted the entire time that Earle was at Auburn. In 1901, F. S. Earle came to The New York Botanical Garden, serving as the Garden's first mycologist.

Throughout his career, Carver developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and clays; promoted home-canning and the addition of natural fertilizers to improve soil fertility; studied insect and fungal diseases; and developed new varieties of cotton and Amaryllis. Of the many contributions G. W. Carver made to science, one that has been under-emphasized is his role as a fungal collector. Throughout his career, Carver maintained a steady interest in mycology. While at Iowa State, he developed a talent for collecting fungal specimens. Since mycology was a scientific discipline that required a high degree of training and sophisticated equipment for proper identification, and Carver had neither training nor equipment, he often sought the aid of trained mycologists. While his preliminary identifications were remarkably accurate, Carver's real gift was for finding rare and new species. Throughout his career, he sent specimens to numerous mycologists and plant pathologists.

Job Bicknell Ellis, a prominent mycologist whose herbarium was purchased by NYBG, received many valuable specimens in return for aiding Carver in identification. It is suspected that Carver's collections ended up at NYBG because of his relationship with J. B. Ellis. In 1902, Ellis collaborated with Benjamin Matlack Everhart on an article entitled 'New Alabama Fungi' which listed 60 important species he had received from Carver. Included in the list were two new species that Ellis and Everhart had named for the Tuskegee scientist.

The fungus herbarium at The New York Botanical Garden has more than 100 specimens collected by Carver. Most of these specimens are represented in the exsiccati 'Fungi Columbiani' by Ellis & Everhart. It is suspected that many more of Carver's collections exist in the herbarium. These specimens will be available in an on-line searchable catalogue in the near future.

Recently Incorporated Herbaria

Herbarium of Roger D. Goos
Dr. Roger D. Goos, Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Rhode Island, donated his fungal herbarium to The New York Botanical Garden in 1995. Dr. Goos received his M.S. and Ph.D. in mycology from the University of Iowa under the supervision of George W. Martin and Constantine J. Alexopoulos respectively. Throughout his career, his research was focused on helicosporous Hyphomycetes, a group characterized by a coiled conidia, and the Meliolales. He also documented the mushrooms of Rhode Island.

Kansas State University Mycological Herbarium
The fungi from the Kansas State University (KSU) herbarium were donated to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in March, 1999. This herbarium consists of approximately 32,000 specimens of which about half belong to published and widely distributed, uniform sets of duplicate specimens. The remaining approximately 16,000 are unicate specimens.

Raymond M. Fatto Herbarium
Raymond M. Fatto, a lifelong resident of the State of New Jersey and a guiding member of the New Jersey Mycological Assoc. (NJMA), donated his herbarium of 1045 Russula and 201 Inocybe collections to the New York Botanical Garden in November of 2003 shortly before his death at age 74. A retired chemist who studied field mycology for about 25 years, he became known for his expertise in the genus Russula, and he had begun work in the genus Inocybe. He published descriptions of several new Russula species and regularly lectured before amateur groups and at events such as the annual Northeastern Mycological Foray. With Geoffrey Kibby of London, England, he co-authored Keys to the Species of Russula in Northeastern North America (61 pp, 1990). He collected data on the mushrooms of New Jersey contributing specimens to a herbarium at Rutgers University; carried out an 11-year fungal diversity study at the William L. Hutcheson Memorial Forest in Franklin Township, Somerset County, N.J.; and, set up an annual survey project to identify indigenous fungi at the Rutgers Creek Wildlife Conservancy in Greenville, N.Y.

Tulane University Fungal Herbarium
The fungal collections from the Tulane University (NO) Herbarium were donated to The New York Botanical Garden in May 1999. The more than 8,000 specimens have been incorporated into the NYBG Herbarium.

Kohlmeyer Herbarium
In the course of his career, Dr. Jan Kohlmeyer in collaboration with Dr. Brigitte Volkmann-Kohlmeyer and the late Erika Kohlmeyer described 149 new species, 50 new genera, four new families and four new orders of fungi and produced 158 papers and four books. The herbarium built by Jan, Erika and Brigitte housed more than 25,000 specimens (dried and fluid-preserved) permanent microscopic slides prepared with the 'double cover glass method', which guaranties the perfect preservation of the material (Mycologist 10: 107-108, 1996), and associated documentation, including field books, notes, photographs (slides, negatives and prints) from marine habitats all over the world. These specimens were digitized by an IMLS grant (MA-05-10-0504-10) and are available in the Virtual Herbarium.