This page is an overview of some specimens we have in our collection! There are 26 notable specimens here that have been collected through the decades.
Collected in 1993, sea purslane is a coastal plant which is important for dune creation. Found along southern and northeastern shores, this plant was a food source for the Native Americans. This Atlantic white cedar, collected in 1996, is a conifer similar to the Eastern white cedar, also included in the herbarium. This plant is semi-aquatic and used commercially for lumber. It takes 70 years to reach maturity and can be cultivated for use as a Christmas tree. Collected in 1968, the broadleaf tongue fern is one of over 600 species in the genus. In a study conducted for New York office spaces in 2015, this plant is one of the best for indoor use. The common horsetail, collected in 1972, is an invasive fern. It is used as an abrasive for resin buildup on the hurdy gurdy, also known as a wheel fiddle. The horsetail allows the crank on the wheel to turn more smoothly, thus producing a better sound. The ginkgo, or maidenhair plant, is an introduced species in the eastern United States. Known as a “living fossil,” it has remained unchanged for over 270 million years. It is the world’s oldest tree species and has no living relatives. Ginkgoes act as the ideal link between gymnosperms and angiosperms. Collected in 1974, the royal fern is one of the largest species of fern in North America. It is also one of the slowest to spread. It has a spore-producing pseudo-flower at the top and can therefore be referred to as the flowering fern. However, it’s common name likely came from the word “osmunda,” meaning “godlike,” due to its size. The spiny spored quillwort, collected 1967, is an aquatic plant found in the circumboreal region of North America. It is the defining characteristic of Lobelia lakes, as they can survive with few nutrients. Collected in 1982, the bracken fern is a popular plant to scavenge. It has fiddleheads, or edible fronds at the top. However, these fronds contain the carcinogen ptaquiloside so they should be ingested sparingly. The species is also allelopathic. This means that it releases chemicals which inhibit the growth of other plants around them and allow them to dominate the area. The papaw tree, collected 1927, is a fruiting tree that is safe for consumption. They resemble a cross between a banana and papaya and have large seeds in the middle of their fruit. Despite their use as a fruit, they contain annonacin, which can degrade neurons in high quantities. This plant is mainly spread by humans traveling and was a favorite of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Collected in 1927, the bald cypress is a “false evergreen,” also known as a deciduous conifer. They inhabit swampy, marshy areas, and they grow “knees” or root protrusions at the surface level. They are uniquely classified as having “wood eternal” since their heartwood is almost impervious to decay. They are the state tree of Louisiana as well, a symbol of southern swamps. Like most cedars, the Eastern white cedar is rot and insect resistant. Collected in 1965, this tree is called the “tree of life” and is believed to have been used by the Native Americans to teach Jacques Cartier how to treat scurvy. Collected in 1927, the red cedar is a pioneer species of cedar. Due to its strong aroma, it is used as a moth repellent and is good for storage with clothing. Its cones are also used to flavor gin, where usually juniper berries are used. This ground pine, collected in 1980, is a plant common in northern Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It resembles a miniature Christmas tree as it does not grow more than 6 inches tall. The pond apple, collected 1968, is a fruiting plant ingested by both alligators and humans. Its taste is said to be reminiscent of honeydew. It is classified as a Weed of National Significance and is fairly invasive all over the world. Collected in 1939, the rattlesnake fern is a part of the adders-tongue family of ferns. It is also found in areas with rattlesnakes, hence the name. A link between this fern and another parasitic angiosperm has been studied. This link is a horizontal gene transfer between the two species, which is the first known gene transfer of its kind. The narrow strap fern, collected in Jamaica in 1965, is an endangered species prevalent in Florida. It is technically considered an air plant since it only needs a place to anchor to. These kinds of plants are known as epiphytes. It is also a popular fern for decorative use, so it is in many front yards in Florida. The smooth sumac, collected 1927, is an invasive, non-poisonous species of sumac. Due to its prevalence in the northern United States, it is likely what you’ll see lining the highways in Illinois. It can be used to dye leather and its fruit can be processed into a lemonade-esque drink. The sap can be used as an antiseptic, refrigerant, or the roots can be used to stop hemorrhaging. The water horsetail, collected 1982, is an aquatic stick-like plant. It has a hollow stem, with a “whorled” leaf arrangement that circles around the stem. It is used for scouring and sanding since its high silica content makes it a good abrasive. The Carolina mosquito fern, collected in 1993, is an invasive species known for depleting oxygen availability in water sources. It acts as a mosquito-repellent and is used as “green manure” in rice paddies. The incised halberd fern, collected 1967, is an invasive species, now local to south Florida. It was first noted in the 1970s and is often confused with the clematis fern. Its lineage has been traced to Mexico and Central America in the 1920s. The Southern lady fern, collected 1974, was found here on the battlefields on Route 1. This fern is important for woodhouse toads for shelter. They prefer the broad fronds of this specific fern. This plant, Xiphopteris serrulata, collected 1968 in Jamaica, is currently in the process of being identified and named as of 2020. The yellow mombin, or hog plum, collected in 1964 in Jamaica, is a fruiting plant. Its fruits are used for jams, and its unripe fruits are eaten like olives. The young leaves are treated as a vegetable. The root can be used in the place of water. It is also used as a medicinal remedy for fevers and as an eye wash. The American smoketree, collected 1927, is a fairly rare tree that is sought after by botanical gardens. Currently, it is facing extinction due to its rarity.
Some honorable (not pictured) mentions are the periwinkle and stinging nettle. The Canadian wood nettle, collected in 1988, is an invasive, stinging nettle. These stings can last for hours. The most effective treatment is to the let the chemicals dry, wash them off, and use tape or wax to remove any barbs left in the skin. The periwinkle, collected 1927, is a mildly poisonous flowering plant. They were introduced in the 1700s as decorative ground cover and they are now invasive, recognized by their little purple flowers. They are thought to be named after the Slavic word for “first” since they are some of the first flowers to bloom in the spring.