Herbarium (WCUH)

Herbarium exhibit at Hunter Library

Digital chestnut collection now online:

The WCUH chestnut imaging project represents herbarium specimens of trees and shrubs in the chestnut genus, Castanea, including leaf voucher specimens of trees used in the breeding program of the American Chestnut Foundation.

About the Herbarium:

The WCU Herbarium is a plant biodiversity resource and repository for preserved plant specimens collected primarily in the southern Appalachians and southeastern U.S. WCUH is the largest botanical resource in western North Carolina, with over 27,000 pressed and dried vascular plant specimens. In addition to vascular plants, we also have approximately 4,000 specimens of nonvascular plants and fungi (including lichens, mosses and fern gametophytes) and plants from outside the southeastern region and outside the U.S.

WCUH serves as a significant teaching and research facility that provides documentation of past and present plant diversity in the southern Appalachians.

The Herbarium was established in 1953 by Professor Clinton Dodson who, with botany students, built the initial core of the collections. Dr. James Horton assumed the Directorship in 1962 and, over the next decade, significantly increased the number of plant specimens representing state and local flora. Exchange with UNC-Chapel Hill (NCU) during the 1970s and 80s also boosted the holdings of the collection. Dr. Dan Pittillo became the next Herbarium Director and contributed his personal collections from 1970 onward. After Dr. Pittillo’s retirement in 2005, Dr. Katherine Mathews became Director of WCUH.

Significant collections:

WCUH is the main repository for Blue Ridge Parkway collections of North Carolina and also maintains collections from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. National and State Park specimens are maintained in separate genus folders from the main collections.
Flora of Southern Highland Rock Outcrops: Representing over 1,400 collections made by Dan Pittillo and James Horton between 1966-1974, these collections document the flora of the unique, high-elevation (2,000-5,700 ft) rock outcrop habitat in the southern Appalachians.  The specimens are maintained in separate folders from the main collections.


Herbarium cabinetsRenovations were completed to the Stillwell Science Building in January, 2008, where the Herbarium is now housed. The pressed and dried plant specimens are stored in 35 full-size oak cabinets built in the early 1950s by the Southern Desk Company.

The main collections room contains the cabinets along with research benches and dissecting microscopes. The adjacent curator’s office provides additional workspace and a small botanical reference library. Adjacent rooms serve as plant drying, mounting, sorting, packaging and freezing areas.


Specimen from the HerbariumWCUH maintains an active loan program and is open to exchange of duplicate specimens with other herbaria.
The collections are used for plant identification by professional botanists in the area, as well as for research in plant systematics by scientists around the country.
WCU graduate students focusing on plant systematics use the collections for research and contribute their own collections to the Herbarium.

Contact us:
Dr. Katherine Mathews, Director and Curator of WCUH
Phone: 828-227-3659 or 828-227-2945
Mail:  Department of Biology
         132 Natural Science Building
          Western Carolina University
          Cullowhee, NC 28723


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