The Delta State University Herbarium (DSC), located in Caylor Hall on the Delta State campus in Cleveland, currently houses over 17,000 plant specimens. The herbarium is a resource for plant-related and environmental science courses such as Principles of Biology, Dendrology, Conservation Biology, Elements of Plant Systematics, and Materials and Methods in Environmental Science. The herbarium also supports research studies. For example, pollen from herbarium specimens has been used to determine similarities and differences between modern plants and fossil taxa from Upper Cretaceous sediments of northeastern Mississippi and Upper Jurassic sediments from the western Interior.
The collection had its beginnings in the 1930s. Mr. Melbourne Miller was hired to conduct a floral and faunal inventory of the region through the Work Progress Administration. Although much of that original survey is lost to time, this project was the nucleus of the development of a natural history museum that is housed to this day at Delta State. Other early workers, include the late Drs. J. S. White, Henry Jacob, and Richard Caylor. Still in the herbarium are specimens from Dr. Caylor's "Ferns of Panama" study, a collection which was unfortunately, like many collections of the time and in many institutions, neglected and largely destroyed. The collection also holds materials from more recent studies by emeritus professor Dr. Robert A Stewart, and also specimens from various county floral studies, in particular from former students of retired Mississippi State plant taxonomist Sydney McDaniel. The collection has also been fortunate over the years to receive duplicates of specimens from regional taxonomists including Arthur Radford, C. Ritchie Bell, Charles Bryson, Wayne Morris, John MacDonald, Richard Carter, and many others.
Most specimens have been collected from the southeastern United States with an emphasis on the Mississippi Delta. Approximately 500 specimens have historic significance, being used to help compile the Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas, published in the 1960s. These specimens were collected by Arthur Radford, Harry Ahles, J. A. Duke, and others in the late 1950s. Specimens from Mississippi collected by other historic collectors including Delzie Demaree (1940s) and Henry Jacobs (1960s) also are present. The collection contains over 13,000 specimens from recent collectors (1960-2002): Drs. Robert Stewart, Charles Bryson, J. McDonald, and Samuel Faulkner.
Until his retirement in 2002, Dr. Robert Stewart, Professor Emeritus of Biology, had maintained the herbarium for many years and contributed many specimens to the collection. Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding has been primarily responsible for its maintenance since that time. Major recent contributors to the collection have been: Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding, DSU Professor of Biology; Dr. Carlysle Meek, DSU Professor of Physics; Dr. Charles Bryson, USDA; Mr. Mark Ponder, City of Cleveland Tree Board; and students enrolled in the DSU Division of Biological and Physical Sciences.
In 2007, Dr. Baghai-Riding, assisted by DSU students, began the task of organizing and cataloging the collection and recording specimen data electronically. A Bryce Griffis grant provided funding for equipment and software required to develop the database. Dr. John Tiftickjian assists with database maintenance and posting the online listing. To date, over 8,500 specimens have been entered into the database and are listed here. Updates to the online list are being done regularly as more specimens are added.
The list can be searched by family and by genus.
Delta State University participates in Project Magnolia grandiFLORA, an effort to digitize herbaria throughout Mississippi and provide scientific and educational resources to the citizens of Mississippi and researchers around the world. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.
For additional information contact:
Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding
Department of Biological Sciences
Delta State University
Cleveland, MS 38733
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