Dozens of vascular plants with purple flowers in a field.

Botany Collections

The McGregor Herbarium houses approximately 454,000 specimens accumulated by Botany staff during the past 150 years.

The majority of the collections at KU Botany comprise exsiccatae, seed, boxed, and fluid-preserved vascular plant specimens. The herbarium also houses smaller holdings of bryophytes and fungi, and a rapidly growing lichen collection. Additional resources in the herbarium include a library of 1,400 books and 14,000 scientific articles, and a collection of more than 50,000 photographic slides and digital images. The collections are searchable via Specify. 

  • We house the largest single collection of plants from the grassland biome of central North America; an estimated 65% of the specimens are from that region. Other important holdings in the collection reflect specific taxonomic and geographic interests of current and former staff.
  • Label data for essentially all of our lichen specimens and roughly 2/3 of our vascular plants specimens have been databased and are accessible digitally.  Digital records for lichens represent 490 genera 440 genera and 1,700 species; for vascular plants they represent 2,400 genera and 11,900 species.
  • Though our collections come primarily from North America, KANU houses lichen and vascular plant specimens from 28 and 78 countries, respectively.
  • We house the largest collections of lichens and vascular plants from Kansas—nearly 10,600 and 137,000 specimens, respectively.
  • During the past 50 years, the division has accessioned an average of 3,400 specimens annually.

Our collection ranks in the top 5% of U.S. herbaria in the number of accessioned specimens. Vascular plants holdings are rich in Asteraceae, Cyperaceae, Fabaceae, Juncaceae, and Poaceae.

As a service we also provide plant identification for the public. 

For access or loan requests, contact:

Collections Manager Caleb Morse, email or Curator Craig Freeman, email

Collections Policies

Botany strives to provide make its legacy data as widely accessible as possible.  Data can be obtained by accessing our on-line databases containing specimen records, through loans of specimens and associated data (see our loan policy for details), or by visiting the herbarium.  

Working space is available for visitors.  Please contact us via email in advance of your visit to ensure that we have suitable space and resources to support your work.  Preserved specimens brought to KANU must be frozen for 48 hrs in advance of their introduction into the work space in accordance with our integrated pest management protocols.

The herbarium is open to both scientific researchers and members of the public. First-time visitors are required to undergo brief instruction in handling herbarium materials but thereafter may have access to the facilities during regular business hours. Herbarium tours are provided to interested individuals or groups with advanced notice.

Requests for loans must be in writing from an official staff member of the institution where the specimens will be stored and should be addressed to the curator-in-charge or collection manager. The request should include:

  1. The name and status of the researcher for whom the loan is requested
  2. The nature of the study and its geographic scope, if appropriate
  3. The taxa requested, including possible synonyms
  4. The basionyms for any type specimens being requested

Material to be returned should be packed in a way similar to that in which it was received to ensure safe transit. Partial returns are encouraged only when a significant portion of the loan can be returned.

Loans of specimens (including type specimens) normally are made for a period of one year. Requests for loan extensions should be addressed in writing to the curator-in-charge or collection manager. Extensions are usually granted for a period of one year, but these extensions are determined on a case-by-case basis. While on loan, specimens must be housed in sealed herbarium cases and handled according to accepted herbarium practice. Generally, type specimens should be returned with the remainder of the loan. However, if type specimens are no longer necessary for research, they may be returned before the loan is due.  We recognize that a limited amount of dissection may be necessary for some kinds of systematics research. We request, however, that any dissection be kept to the absolute minimum required. All material dissected from a specimen must be replaced in a fragment packet affixed to the sheet. Any destructive sampling – here defined as sampling in which materials are removed from sheets but cannot be replaced in fragment packets – may not be carried out without prior written permission from the curator-in-charge or collection manager. Specimens that have undergone destructive sampling must be annotated with a label providing: an indication of how much material was removed, the procedure that was performed, and any other relevant information (where SEM negatives are housed, GenBank accession number, etc.). Unless prior arrangements have been made, researchers are requested to annotate all specimens borrowed. Annotation labels should be glued to the herbarium sheet above or near the original label whenever possible. The label should be legible, prepared in permanent ink, and should include the taxon name, investigator’s name and institution, and date of determination. Type specimens also should be annotated with the basionym, citation of the publication, and an indication of the statue of the type (holotype, isotype, etc.).

Material to be returned should be packed in a way similar to that in which they were received to ensure safe transit. Partial returns are encouraged only when a significant portion of the loan can be returned.

Specimens may not be removed or transferred from the institution to which they have been loaned without prior written permission from the curator-in-charge or collection manager. Permission to transfer is made on a case-by-case basis.

Use the standardized acronym “KANU” when citing collections of the R.L. McGregor Herbarium. We would appreciate receiving copies of any publications or URL links to such publications in which our herbarium specimens are cited. Reprints should be sent to the collection manager. Learn more about KU Biodiversity Institute data publication and use norms.