Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Vascular Plant Collection

Vascular Type Specimens: View All, Read Paper (PDF)

List of Genera: Angiosperms and Gymnosperms | Ferns and Fern Allies


John Davidson initiated the UBC herbarium in 1912, which then consisted of mainly vascular plants, when he became the Provincial Botanist of British Columbia. The original herbarium was located in the botanical offices in downtown Vancouver, and subsequently moved to many different buildings. The whole collection was moved to a temporary UBC location at Fairview in 1916, when John Davidson became “the demonstrator in charge of UBC herbarium and botanical garden”. The collections were moved to the university campus around 1925, and were housed in various buildings closest to their curators, with the vascular collection located in what is now the Geology building. In 1973, all five collections were moved to their present location in the Biological Sciences building. The collection will soon move again to the Beaty Biodiversity Centre, along with all the other UBC natural history collections.

It is unknown how many specimens John Davidson started the vascular plant collection with, but it is well documented that many early British Columbia collectors donated their entire collections to John Davidson, giving 1000 specimens at a time. Substantial early additions to the vascular collection were donated by: Albert J. Hill (collecting years: 1884 - 1912; 2500 specimens); Eli Wilson (1903 - 1913; 1000 - 2000); W. Taylor (1912 - 1937; 900); and A. E. Baggs (1910 - 1929; 1000) (The University of British Columbia Calendar 1920 -1921). Several reports indicate that much of the early collection was destroyed during the 1930’s by insect damage. The size of the vascular plant collection has increased substantially over the last several decades through the efforts of many collectors and exchanges with other institutions. The collection included ~8,000 accessioned sheets in 1915, ~37,000 by 1952, 177,000 in the 1980’s, and 212,000 in 1990.

The vascular collection is arranged taxonomically by family. Within families, the specimens are ordered alphabetically by genus then species. Each species is then arranged in order by geographical regions within each herbarium.


click to enlarge


The UBC Herbarium has the world's largest collection of British Columbia vascular plants and is worldwide in scope. Of the 222,000 vascular plant specimens, about 45% are from British Columbia. About 22% are from the rest of Canada, with the Northwest Territories and Yukon especially well represented. Specimens from the United States make up about 16% of the collection, with 9% from the five Pacific Coast states (California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska) and 7% from the rest of the United States. Hawaiian plants are especially well represented. About 17% of the collection is from the rest of the world, with the largest numbers from Great Britain, Finland, China, Australia, Denmark, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, Russia, Greenland, and Sweden.

At present, the collection includes more than 222,000 accessioned specimens. Many of the largest donated collections of vascular plants have been from former directors of the UBC herbarium [J.W. Eastham (~10,000 specimens); T.M.C. Taylor (~7000); K.I. Beamish (~6500); G.B Straley (~6000)], faculty members [V.J. Krajina ~10,000), W.B. Schofield (~1500)], herbarium staff [John Pender-Moss (~1000)], local botanists [e.g., J.A. Calder (~2200)], past graduate students [J. Pojar (~800)], and herbarium demonstrators, such as John Davidson (~2500). Current active collectors for the UBC herbarium are: H. Kennedy (1969 - present; 1000 specimens); T. Goward (1979 - present; 1500); A. Ceska (1978 - present; 1200); F. Lomer (1988 - present; 2000); and J. M. Saarela (2002 – present; 1000).


Label data from 60% of the vascular plants have been entered into the database, and the most of the data has not yet been edited for typographical errors. Even though many specimens, including most B.C. collections, have been annotated for nomenclatural and taxonomic changes in the last 20 years, most database entries have not been edited for nomenclatural and taxonomic changes since the data were entered. The representation of the collection in the database is not random, but is biased toward families at the beginning of the alphabet. Most families beginning with A through G have been almost completely entered, with the exception of the Apiaceae and Arecaceae. In addition, the Marantaceae, Poaceae, and Saxifragaceae are nearly completely entered. For other families only relatively recent collections are likely to be found in the database. All the Yukon specimens have been entered into our database thanks to funding provided by NatureServe -Yukon.

Access the UBC Herbarium Vascular Plant database: Search


UBC Herbarium Type Specimens Paper Published:

A catalogue of the type specimens held by the UBC herbarium has been published by the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. The paper, authored by Jeff Saarela, Linda Jennings (Lipsen), Cindy Sayre, and Jeannette Whitton, also describes the history of the vascular plant collection at the University. The full text can be found here, and the specimens can be viewed here.


UBC Herbarium Research Assistant Projects:

    2005 - Jeff Saarela: Annotation of the Grass Family, Poaceae (doc)
    2006 - Chris Sears: Updating Fern Families in the Electronic Information Age (doc)

UBC Herbarium to participate in the Canadian Biodiversity Consortium:

The UBC Herbarium, Spencer Entomological Collection and Botanical Garden collaborated with a group of university museums and collections from across Canada on a successful proposal to fund a Canadian Biodiversity cyber-infrastructure network. The initiative is lead by Dr. Anne Bruneau at the University of Montreal and Montreal Botanical Garden and is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation with additional funding for UBC from the British Columbia Knowledge and Development Fund. In addition to participating in the national network, UBC will benefit through funding of data entry personnel and new computer equipment in 2008.


The information on this page was contribted by Collections Manager: Linda Jennings

Herbarium Director and Curator of Vascular Plants: Dr. Jeannette Whitton
Curator of Eudicots: Dr. Quentin Cronk
Curator of Monocots and Basal Angiosperms: Dr. Sean Graham




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