|History: The Illinois Natural History Society was chartered in 1861 by the state legislature to create a scientific survey of the state and establish a natural history museum. Many of the first specimens collected were held at the Illinois Museum of Natural History in Normal, IL. In 1887, Stephen Forbes became the director of the society and it was renamed the the State Laboratory of Natural History. In 1885, Forbes moved the survey to Urbana, IL where he accepted a job at the Illinois Industrial University, now known as the University of Illinois. In 1917, the survey was again renamed becoming the Illinois Natural History Survey. In 1947, Robert A. Evers was hired to collect vascular plants and build the ILLS herbarium collection. Evers was a field botanist for the Survey from 1947 to 1976 (nearly 30 years) and collected an amazing 114,266 specimens, nearly 4,000 specimens per year. In all, Evers collections account for about 44% of the plant collection. In 2011, the herbarium was moved to the Robert A. Evers Laboratory. This space has over 800 compactor cabinets, is temperature and humidity controlled and has a large prep room, two work rooms, and a storage area.
Collections and Holdings: There are three plant herbaria housed at the Evers Laboratory: Illinois Natural History Survey Herbarium (ILLS), the University of Illinois Plant Biology Herbarium (ILL), and the University of Illinois Crop Evolution Laboratory Herbarium (CEL). Together, these collections contain over 1,000,000 specimens making this the second largest herbarium in Illinois and one of the 15th largest in the United States.
In total there are approximately 259,000 plant specimens in ILLS, all of which have been databased. Our data is accessible to the public at the Consortium of Midwest Herbaria. Approximately 80% of the ILLS specimens were collected in Illinois, including a significant number of Illinois Threatened and Endangered species, forming one of the most comprehensive records of Illinois vascular plants. ILLS also holds a sizable amount of specimens collected in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (GSMNP) as well as Kyrgyzstan and China. The earliest plant specimen, donated by the University of Wisconsin, is Aquilegia canadensis L. collected in Decatur, Illinois by Foster Waltz on May 17, 1843. Important collections in the ILLS herbarium include G.H. Boewe, J.C. Carter, J.L. Crane, R.A. Evers, S.R. Hill, H.S. Pepoon, C. Robertson, L.R. Tehone, and L.M. Umbach. We were recently given the collections from Shawnee National Forest and Eureka College and we are working to incorporate these into our collections. During initial review of the Eureka College materials, we found early specimens collected in the late 1800's from Gittings Seminary, Peoria High School, and the Illinois Natural History Society.
Within the ILL herbarium, approximately one-third of the specimens are early Illinois collections;one-third from other states, largely from the west; and the last third of the specimens from outside the United States. ILL is noteworthy for its collections of Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Mimosaceae, and Viscaceae. It also has numerous types of Piperaceae, Quercus, and Phoradendron. Their total types are approximately 4,000 and include many holotypes. The types have been scanned and their label data captured. The images may be seen at the following website: JSTOR Global Plants. The CEL herbarium specialty is the Poaceae, particularly Andropogoneae and genera of cereals, and cultivated Fabaceae. This important crop plant collection contains many artificial hybrids of our cultivated plants and collections of their wild ancestors.
Finally, ILLS and ILL combined have algae and bryophyte collections of 5600+ and 32,000+ specimens, respectively. Within the bryophyte collections are 286 specimens collected by Thomas Drummond. These specimens were gathered during the Second Land Arctic Expedition Under the Command of Captain Franklin. The 286 specimens were published in 1828 and are likely the oldest specimens held by ILL. Also included in these holdings are about 2600+ algae exsiccati and 700 bryophyte exsiccati, with the most notable algae exsiccati being a complete set in good condition of the Phycotheca Boreali – Americana, donated by Mrs. Mary S. Snyder in 1914. This collection includes about 90% of all the marine algae found on the coasts of the United States.