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WebBonus   | Summer 2012

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Plants from historic expeditions in Purdue herbaria

The Purdue herbaria's oldest specimen—a single leaf of Berberis ilicifolia—was collected in Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America, in 1769. The plant, commonly known as barberry, was collected during Capt. James Cook's first voyage around the world.

The specimen, which had developed a case of rust at the time it was collected, was housed in a British museum with others collected during the Cook expedition. It came to the U.S. National Museum as part of a specimen exchange in 1970. The U.S. National Herbaria later sent the plant to Purdue's Arthur Herbarium, which had established a reputation as the world's foremost authority on rust.

Specimens such as the one from on a high alpine area in Tierra del Fuego were commonly collected during discovery expeditions that not only explored new territories but advanced scientific knowledge as well.

Also in the herbaria collections is a specimen from Cmdre. Matthew Perry's first U.S. Japan Expedition in 1853. While the voyage's mission was to establish open trade with Japan, Perry realized the importance of gathering information on natural history. Two men were appointed botanists for the trip. The Purdue collections include a rusted leaf of Photinia villosa, which was brought back from the expedition.

Also in the Purdue collections are specimens from the Adm. Richard Byrd's second Antarctic expedition. Biologist Alton Lindsey, who served on the expedition from 1933-35, accepted an appointment as professor of forest ecology at Purdue in 1947. In addition to plants collected during his arctic journey, the Purdue has several thousand specimens from Lindsey, many of which were collected at Ross Biological Reserve. Lindsey was instrumental in establishing the teaching and research laboratory in a forest on the banks of the Wabash River.

Lindsey was so influential throughout his field that fellowships, laboratories, a bug, the oldest dated wood in the Southwest and 12 islands off the coast of Antarctica—the Lindsey Islands—were named after him.

Related feature: Purdue, Plants and Pioneers

 

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