Important Collections in the Kriebel Herbarium

The vascular plant specimens of the Kriebel Herbarium represent an opportunity to reconstruct the original flora of Indiana and the Midwestern and Great Lakes region of the United States in general. Little remains in these areas due to agricultural development. For instance, Ralph Kriebel, who studied under Deam, was especially interested in ferns and oaks and as a result, there are important local collections available from areas where these plants can no longer be found. There is a specimen of leather leaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) collected by Deam in 1916 from a bog in DeKalb Co. which is now the only indication of the original natural ecology of this site, as the area has since been destroyed by peat mining.

Charles C. Deam​​

​Famed botanists who contributed to the Kriebel include Charles C. Deam, the first State Forester of Indiana and author of the nationally renowned ​Flora of Indiana (Deam 1940). He walked through all 1016 townships in Indiana, discovered 25 new plants and has 48 plants named for him.​ Below is an Oak specimen collected by Deam when he was 79. The species is named Quercus deamii, after Deam, and he collected it at a monument to himself in Lancaster, IN. 


General George Armstrong Custer

General Armstrong Custer
General ​Armstrong C​uster​

Of particular interest are a dozen specimens believed to have been collected by George Armstrong Custer, the 7th Cavalry general who made his famous last stand at the Battle of Little Big Horn (Shaner and Harby 2012), and his companion botanist Aris Donaldson. 

Gen. George Armstrong Custer led a well-armed force of 1,000 troopers into the Black Hills of what is now western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming in 1874.

On July 25, the expeditionary force entered what Custer named Floral Valley. In a dispatch Custer wrote: "It's equal I have never seen. Ever step of our march that day was amid flowers of the most exquisite colors and perfume. So luxuriant in growth were they that the men plucked them without dismounting from the saddle…It was a strange sight to glance back at the advancing columns of cavalry, and behold the men with beautiful bouquets in their hands, while the head-gear of the horses were decorated with wreaths of flowers fit to crown a queen of May."

The right is a specimen in the Kriebel collected by Gen. Custer from the Black Hills. To read more about our Custer specimens click here​.

Type Collections in the Kriebel Herbarium

A type specimen is a specimen, or set of specimens, on which a botanist or mycologist based their description of a new species. These specimens are crucial to the science of biological taxonomy and biology as a whole and these type collections are considered the lynchpin of biological research.

As of 2014 roughly a qaurter of the estimated 90,000 specimens in the Kriebel Herbarium have been cataloged. Of these, 700 type specimens have been identified. Over half of these are from the Eli Lilly & Co. donation (see below). An additional dozen have been identified from the vascular plants and bryophytes collection and close to 300 fungal specimens are noted as being types. These numbers are sure to grow as we continue to explore and catalog the remainder of the collection. ​

​To see images of the Eli Lilly & Co. Type collection, click here (institutional access required).​

Eli Lilly Collection

Eli Lilly building
Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals, Indianapolis, 1876

​In 2012, Purdue University's Kriebel Herbarium recently accquired over 14,700 specimens from the Eli Lilly and Company Pharmaceuticals, located in Indianapolis. The company was founded​ in the 1876 by Colonel Eli Lilly. A total of 398 type specimens of vascular plants from the Kriebel Herbarium were recently databased and imaged in 2012 as part of the Global Plants Initiative​. The majority of these Isotype specimens are from the collection of Cyrus G. Pringle (1838–1911), an American botanist who is noted in the top five historical botanists for quantity of new species discovered, approximately 1,200 species and 29 genera.

In 2014, the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, via the Indiana State Library, awarded the Kriebel funds to catalog and digitize the El​i Lilly collection for inclusion in the Indiana Memory​ project. 

This project is set to start September 2014, until then, enjoy this image of a Tiger Lilly from the Eli Lilly Collection. This specimen was collected by Mordecai E. Hyams in North Carolina. M. E. Hyams was a botanist and a herbalist who worked in the drug trade in Statesville, N. C., and contributed to North Carolina botany, agriculture and forestry. ​

Alton Lindsey

Also in the Kreibel collections are specimens from the Admiral Richard Byrd's second Antarctic expedition. Biologist Alton Lindsey, who served on the expedition from 1933-35, was professor of forest ecology at Purdue from 1947 - 1973. In addition to plants collected during his arctic journey, the Kriebel has over a thousand specimens from Lindsey (that we know of). Many of these were collected at Ross Biological Reserve​. Lindsey was instrumental in establishing the reserve and was so influential throughout his field that fellowships, laboratories, an insect, and 12 islands off the coast of Antarctica, the Lindsey Islands, have been named after him.​​

Additional Collections of Historical Significance

The Kriebel Herbarium houses the first collection of plant specimens ever brought to Purdue including the collection of Purdue’s first Botany professor, John Hussey (Porter & Porter 1931). In fact, in addition to the vastly important specimens and species records, the Herbaria at Purdue contain data on many botanists of note. The Kriebel Herbarium itself is named in honor of Ralph M. Kriebel, a botanist who joined Purdue in 1943 and whose collection, in excess of 10,000 specimens of important Indiana flora, is still housed here (Webster 1961). Stanley Coulter originally managed the first herbarium at Purdue and, along with his brother, John Coulter, performed a great deal of botanical services for the state of Indiana, including the production of A Key to the Genera of the Native Forest Trees and Shrubs of Indiana (1907).

Other published botanists of Indiana who contributed to the Kriebel Herbarium include:

  • Alida Cunnigham who contributed to the Distribution of Orchidaceae in Indiana (Brunson, 1942)
  • Winona Welch, author of Mosses of Indiana (Welch, 1957) who was born in Jasper County, and established the Herbarium at DePauw University
  • W. B. Vangorder who authored the Catalog of the Flora of Noble County, Indiana (, Van Gorder,1885) 
  • Purdue’s Sally Weeks, author of Native Trees of the Midwest (Weeks, 2010). 

We also have collections from local amateur botanists such as B. H. Doddridge, County Agent from Jefferson County, Herman B. Dorner, Lafayette’s “great carnation florist” and Scott McCoy, Director of Halleday Park Botanical Garden in Indianapolis and Chairman of the Meeting of Plant Taxonomists in Indiana along with Charles Deam and Ralph Kriebel (Anon 1943). Beyond Indiana, our collections contain contributions made by other important early American botanists including Agnes Chase—an American botanist who worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Smithsonian Institution and is considered one of the world's outstanding grass researchers known not only for her scientific work but also for her work as a suffragette. 

Fungal Exsiccati​​

The companion herbarium, the Arthur Herbarium, contains one of the world's largest collection of plant rust (Fungi: Pucciniales). 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.​


  • Anon, 1943. Meeting of Plant Taxonomists. Proceedings of Indiana Academy of Science, p.1943.​Brunson, M.E., 1942. Distribution of Indiana Orchidaceae, Butler University.
  • Deam, CC. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Indianapolis: Department of Conservation, Indiana. 1236 pp.
  • Coulter, S. & Dorner, H.B., 1907. A key to the genera of the native forest trees and shrubs of Indiana, based chiefly upon leaf characters, Murphy-Bivins Co.​
  • Porter, C.L. & Porter, J.N., 1931. The Stanley Coulter Herbarium at Purdue University. Proceedings of Indiana Academy of Science, (40), pp.115–117.
  • Shaner G, Harby N. 2012. Discovering Custer's Last Plants from Black Hills Expedition.
  • Webster, G.L., 1961. The Kriebel Herbarium. Indiana Academy of Science, pp.233–234.
  • Weeks, S.S., Weeks, H.P. & Parker, G.R., 2010. Native Trees of the Midwest: Identification, Wildlife Values, and Landscaping Use (Google eBook), Purdue University Press.
  • Welch, W.H. & Conservation, I.D. of, 1957. Mosses of Indiana: an illustrated manual, Bookwalter co.
  • Van Gorder, W.B., 1885. Catalogue of the Flora of Noble County, Indiana.