Plants & Fungi

Photo: Dennis Wise/University of Washington
Photo: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Welcome to the Burke Museum Herbarium 

The Herbarium collections are an internationally renowned resource for research into the diversity, distribution, and ecology of Pacific Northwest vascular plants, nonvascular plants, fungi, lichen, and algae. The Herbarium also provides extensive online resources for researchers and members of the public.

The Herbarium collections currently include over 660,000 specimens. Faculty, staff, and graduate students are actively collecting throughout the Pacific Northwest and select regions of Central and South America. Between 5,000–10,000 specimens are added to the collections annually from our field work and an extensive exchange program, making us one of the largest and most active herbaria in the Pacific Northwest.

Search the Collection

Over 400,000 specimens from the Herbarium collection are accessible through this database and the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria website. For most vascular plant specimens, only label data are available. Both specimen label data and images are available for most nonvascular plant, fungal, lichen, and marine algae specimens.

Plants & Fungi Database

See All Herbarium Digital Resources

Collection Highlights

The Herbarium's total holdings number more than 660,000 specimens of vascular and nonvascular plants, fungi, lichens, and marine algae. The oldest specimens in the collections date to the late 1800s.

The Herbarium houses the largest collection of Pacific Northwest vascular plants in North America. Other geographic areas with strong representation include California, Nevada, and the Russian Far East. Taxonomically well-represented groups include ferns, Cyperaceae (sedges), Juncaceae (rushes), and Castilleja (Indian paintbrushes).

All vascular plant types in the collection are imaged, databased, and available online through support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation's Global Plants Initiative Program.

Macrofungi comprise the majority of the fungi collection, with particularly strong holdings in the genera Cortinarius and Inocybe. The geographic focus of the collections is the Pacific Northwest, with additional strong holdings from Arctic North America.

All fungal types in the collection are imaged, databased, and available online.

Macrolichens from the Pacific Northwest comprise the majority of the holdings. There is also an extensive collection of pin lichens and some soil crust lichens.

All lichen types in the collection are imaged, databased, and available online.

Mosses, hornworts, and liverworts comprise the bryophyte collection, with the majority of the holdings from the Pacific Northwest. Other geographic areas represented include California, Nevada, and eastern North America.

All bryophyte types in the collection are imaged, databased, and available online.

Marine macroalgae from the Pacific Northwest comprise the core of the holdings. Other geographic areas with strong representation include California, Australia, and New Zealand.

All of the algae types in the collection are imaged, databased, and available online.

a man and woman stand next to a river in South America with two hills in the background
Photo: Ana Bedoya
Photo: Ana Bedoya

Our Research 

Flowering plants form the basis of all terrestrial ecosystems. With over 300,000 species worldwide, understanding how plants originated and diversified over time and across space is essential to understanding todays ecosystems.

The lab of Herbarium Curator, Dr. Richard Olmstead, conducts research into the origins of plant diversity, primarily in the Neotropics, by using DNA sequences to reconstruct the phylogeny of plant groups that originated in South America and have diversified globally.

Olmstead Lab

University of Washington Courses

Herbarium staff and collections play an important role in undergraduate and graduate education within the UW’s College of Arts and Sciences, and especially the Department of Biology.

pressed plants on herbarium sheets
Photo: Rachel Ormiston/Burke Museum
Photo: Rachel Ormiston/Burke Museum

Tour the Collection

Tours typically cover the history of the Herbarium and collections, how specimens are prepared and organized in the collections, and highlights of the ongoing projects.

a woman illustrates a plant while looking at the actual specimen on an iPad
Photo: Andrew Waits
Photo: Andrew Waits

Herbarium Digital Resources

The Herbarium has developed a robust offering of digital and online resources. 

Questions & Answers

We’ve pulled together some common questions and answers related to the Burke Museum Herbarium. Do you have question that isn’t answered below? Contact us

Specimen loans are made solely to researchers associated with academic and research institutions. Please contact us for more information about specimen loans. 

The Herbarium is open to the public for research purposes. There are no exhibits or object displays in the collections. Please note that the Herbarium is not located at the Burke Museum but is a short 15 minute walk south. Contact us for more information about visiting the collections.

Hours

The Herbarium is open Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, but if you are planning a visit, please contact us to confirm.

Research

The collections are available for research use during normal Herbarium hours. Interested researchers should contact Herbarium Collections Manager David Giblin for more information. Some requests for specimen data can be answered using our collections database and other online resources.

Protocol for visiting

The specimens in this plant "library" are part of the global heritage of research plant materials. Herbarium specimens are fragile, and current use must safeguard their future availability and usefulness.

  • All first time visitors to the Herbarium must make an appointment in advance with the Collections Manager. On your first visit you will receive an orientation to the collections.
  • Do not bring unfumigated (living or dead) plants into the Herbarium. Dried plant material must be fumigated onsite by freezing for 48 hours. Fresh material, if enclosed in sealed (i.e. Ziploc) plastic bags, may be examined in the Herbarium if it is not removed from the bag.
  • Consumption of food and the examination of herbarium specimens is not allowed (see topic of “poisoned” specimens below).
  • Please keep the herbarium cabinets closed when not in use.

Annotations

  • Make annotations on provided labels with permanent ink (not ballpoint). If you are annotating many specimens, you may paper clip one label as a sample to a folder of specimens and leave the folder on the table. We will print and attach labels to all the specimens in the folder.
  • Annotation labels, Pigma (permanent) pens, and glue bottles are available from the Collections Manager.

Tours of the Burke’s Plants & Fungi Collection typically cover the history of the Herbarium and collections, how specimens are prepared and organized in the collections, and highlights of the ongoing projects. Adult groups from on- and off-campus are welcome. Visit the Tours page for more information.

We are able to provide identifications for a small number of specimens that are sent to us or brought in by appointment. Projects involving a large number of identifications can be arranged on a fee basis. Please contact us for more information.

The Herbarium gladly accepts fully curated (pressed, dried) specimens with label data. Please contact us for more information.

The Herbarium offers academic credit-based internships for undergraduate students at the University of Washington. The specific demands of the internships are worked out with the Collections Manager. Past internships have focused on specimen identification, specimen georeferencing, and botanical illustration. Please contact us for more information.

Earning credits: Each credit requires 3 hours of work per week per quarter, with a 2 credit minimum. At the end of the term, the student must complete a 1 to 2-page summary of the experience.

Schedule: The schedule will be arranged with the Herbarium Collections Manager.

We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers! Visit our Volunteer page for more information about Burke Museum volunteer opportunities and to view current openings.

Our Team & Contact

Meet the people within the Burke Museum Ornithology team.

Our Team

Have a general question?

Contact Us

Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum
Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum

Additional Resources

We've compiled several online resources from outside of the Burke Museum that may also be of interest.