Purdue University Kriebel Herbarium
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The Kriebel Herbarium comprises approximately 70,000 specimens of vascular plants, along with perhaps 2,000 specimens of algae, bryophytes and fungi other than rusts. In addition, the Kriebel has a number of sets of exchange specimens (called exsiccati) of fungi, totaling approximately 16,000 specimens. Although the majority of the early plant collections were from Indiana and the eastern United States, more recent collections hail from around the world, particularly from the Caribbean. These recent collections and the fungal exsiccati give the Kriebel Herbarium national and international significance. Of local and state interest, the early collections of Indiana plants form a record of species and natural areas now lost to agriculture, industry or urban development.
The Kriebel Herbarium at Purdue owes its name and important collections of Indiana flora to Ralph M. Kriebel (1897-1946), but it has been in existence since the very beginning of Purdue University. As Purdue started classes for the first time in 1874, only six professors had been hired to teach. One was John Hussey, botany professor. He brought his personal plant collection to assist his students, and Hussey's specimens are still in the Kriebel Herbarium to this day.
By 1897, professor Stanley Coulter (1853-1943) had become director of the biological laboratories at Purdue. Stanley Coulter and his brother John M. Coulter (1851-1928) were pioneer botanists in Indiana, and published the first flora of Indiana in 1881. Stanley Coulter was the only true botanical mentor of reknowned Hoosier botanist Charles C. Deam. John M. Coulter became president of Indiana University (1891-1893) and professor at the University of Chicago (1896-1925).
Ralph Kriebel, teacher, quarry-man, botanist and conservationist, made many plant collections in Lawrence County in southern Indiana, where he worked for the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) from 1934-1942. His primary botanical mentor and field companion was Charles C. Deam, author of the second and much enlarged Flora of Indiana (1940). Kriebel transferred to the Lafayette office of the SCS in 1942, then joined the staff of the Agricultural Extension Service of Purdue University in 1943. After his death, his herbarium of 10,886 specimens was purchased by the Purdue Agricultural Experiment Station, and added to the existing herbarium started by Stanley Coulter. The combined herbarium was dedicated and renamed in honor of Ralph Kriebel in August 1961. The Kriebel Herbarium was subsequently transferred in 1986 from the Department of Biology to the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, where it is now maintained.
To ensure that the Kriebel Herbarium is open and accessible to all potential users, we are now developing a computer database that will be searchable through the web pages of the Purdue University Botany and Plant Pathology Department.
The companion herbarium, the Arthur Herbarium, contains one of the world's largest collection of plant rusts (Fungi: Uredinales). Since J.C. Arthur wished that the holdings of the Arthur Herbarium to be restricted in perpetuity to the rust fungi, specimens of other fungi are kept in the Kriebel Herbarium. Amongst these are several very important collections known as "exsiccati" from around the world. Exsiccati are sets of dried specimens sent in exchange or for sale by experts, and represent very valuable reference material to the species concepts of these experts, and to species present in their geographic area.
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