Botany Collections

Collectors and Collections

The list of collectors whose specimens are housed at PH is a veritable Who's Who of early botany and scientific exploration in North America. The table below provides just a glimpse of the highlights of our special collections; for a more complete presentation consult Mears (1981). Notably, PH has all but a few of the specimens that were brought back from the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. (You can also check out the plants collected by Lewis and Clark in an online exhibit at or at the Lewis & Clark as Naturalists online exhibit at the Smithsonian.) B.S. Barton and G.H.E. Muhlenberg were early members of the American Philosophical Society (APS), the first scientific association in the New World, founded by Benjamin Franklin, John Bartram, and others. The APS herbarium came to PH at the end of the 19th century; other institutional and private donations have extended the scope and strength of the collection. (See APS Collections on Deposit at ANS APS Collections on Deposit at the Academy.)

Examples of historically significant collectors 
Collector/Source Active Period Specimens Notes
Benjamin Smith Barton 18th century 2,000 Many holotypes of Pursh, Torrey & Gray, Nuttall
Frederick Pursh 18th century 1,200 North America, West Indies
Henry Muhlenberg Late 18th-early 19th century 17,000 Early Eastern US
Thomas Nuttall Early 19th century 4,000 Western North America
C.W. Short 19th century 15,000 Worldwide exchange
Lewis D. von Schweinitz Early 19th century 23,000 Worldwide, plants and fungi

The herbarium also has notable strengths that reflect the taxonomic or geographic interests of past curators and associates, including F.W. Pennell (Scrophulariaceae, the snapdragon family; Asia and S. America,), E.T. Wherry (Polemoniaceae, the phlox family), T.C. Porter, M.G. Henry (Pacific Northwest), B.H. Long (Eastern US), B. Stone (Pandanaceae, the screw pine family; Rutaceae, the citrus family; S.E. Asia), and A.E. Schuyler (Cyperaceae; the sedge family). PH is the primary repository and source of information for these botanists' collections. Download a pdf on these and other collectors represented in the PH.

You can view the PH collection of the Pandanaceae at:, and the PH collection of specimens collected by Forster and Forster at

The significance of the collection is further evidenced by the large Type Collection (>40,000 specimens).

Size of PH Collections
Taxon/Category Collection Size Related Documents
Vascular Plants:
Angiosperms 1,144,800
Gymnosperms 6,000
Pteridophytes 38,000 Ferns at PH
Bryophytes 77,990
Cones, Fruits and seeds 2,000 Seed Vials at PH
Algae (including cyanophytes) 28,100 Algae at PH
Fungi 28,600 Fungi at PH
Lichens 24,500
Fossil Plants 4,850
Subtotal, General Collection 1,354,840
Cryptogamic Herbaria
Fossil Plants
Vascular Herbarium

Online Databases

Data and images of all type and many historical specimens are available from JSTOR Global Plants. Be sure to search there first.

All North American lichen and bryophyte specimens from the general collections have been databased and are available from the Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria, the Consortium of North American Bryophyte Herbaria, and the iDigBio portal.

All specimens from Taiwan are available at Plants of Taiwan.

A subset of vascular plant specimens from Pennsylvania from the general collection are available through the SEINET portal.

You can also check the herbarium’s collections database which contains a subset of specimens from the type and general collections.