The Local Herbarium of the Academy of Natural Sciences/Herbarium of the Philadelphia Botanical Club was started in 1892 soon after the founding of the Philadelphia Botanical Club in 1891. Alexander MacElwee was its first volunteer Curator (until 1903), followed by S. S. Van Pelt (Curator 1904-1913) and Bayard Long (Associate Curator 1910-1913, Curator 1914-1969), who also were volunteers. Under the curatorship of Van Pelt, the task of transferring local collections from the Academy's General Herbarium to the Local Herbarium was completed. Local collections are defined as those from counties within 50 miles of Philadelphia (Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia Counties in Pennsylvania; Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, Somerset, and Warren Counties in New Jersey; Newcastle County, Delaware; and Cecil County, Maryland). The Local Herbarium now contains all the vascular plant specimens collected in those counties, except for a small number of specimens held in segregated historical herbaria.
During his active years at the Academy from 1906, when he joined the Botanical Club, until his departure in 1962, Bayard Long actively curated the Local Herbarium and had a major role in making it one of the finest such collections in the world. In 1962, Alfred E. Schuyler was hired by the Academy, and placed in charge of all collections in the Academy's Botany Department. The current collections manager is Aline Freire-Fierro. The Club continues to elect a Curator, primarily in an honorary/advisory capacity, and the present incumbent is Joseph R. Arsenault. Former Club Curators Bayard Long and Hans Wilkens (Curator 1983-1993) left their estates to the Academy, and Grace M. Tees (Assistant Curator 1983-1990) left a substantial portion of her estate to the Botanical Club for maintenance of the Local Herbarium.
The first acquisition of the Local Herbarium was a collection representing most of the known local species, and an herbarium specimen case offered to the Club by Isaac C. Martindale in 1892. Important Academy collections added to this core were the early 19th century collections/herbaria of W. P. C. Barton, Solomon W. Conrad, and Thomas Nuttall. Important late 19th century and 20th century acquisitions were the collections/herbaria of Stewardson Brown, Joel J. Carter, Albert Commons, John M. Fogg, Jr., Ida K. Keller, Bayard Long, Alexander MacElwee, Francis W. Pennell, Thomas C. Porter, Harold W. Pretz, Charles E. Smith, Witmer Stone, Edgar T. Wherry, Hans Wilkens, and William Wynne Wister. Alfred E. Schuyler has been depositing collections in the Local Herbarium since 1962. The estimated 300,000 specimens comprising the Local Herbarium are now housed in movable shelving units paid for by the National Science Foundation.
Updated August 12, 2015. Thelypteris noveboracensis image © 2003 Janet Novak