When Wisconsin entered the Union in 1848 as the nation’s 30th state, its constitution demanded the “establishment of a state university at or near the seat of state government.” From this mandate was established the University of Wisconsin – Madison, recognized today as one of the world’s leading institutions of education and research.
Among the first orders of business the University’s administrative Board of Regents considered at their second meeting on January 16, 1849 was a proclamation that “efforts should be made at once to begin the formation of a cabinet of natural history.” From a modest collection of 1,500 plant specimens donated to the ‘cabinet’ by Dr. Increase Lapham during that same year, the Wisconsin State Herbarium (WIS) was born. By 1865 the size of the Herbarium had doubled to 3,000 specimens, and it has continued to grow at a steady pace since.
Today WIS is estimated to hold >1.39 million specimens of algae, fungi, lichens, and plants, placing it among the top 1% of the world’s largest herbarium. It is ranked 17th largest in the world outside of Europe, 11th largest in the Western Hemisphere, 10th largest in the USA, and the 3rd largest public university herbarium in the Americas.
Mission: The Wisconsin State Herbarium’s mission is to document and increase knowledge about the world’s flora, broadly defined to include plants & plant-like organisms. This is done by serving as a repository for preserved collections of teaching and research voucher specimens. These collections and their associated metadata are made available to scientists, students, and citizens who require them for study.