S.M. Tracy Herbarium, University Services Building
Physical Address (for visitors)
3380 University Drive East, Room 131,
College Station, Texas 77845
Mailing Address (mail, packages, etc.)
S.M. Tracy Herbarium (TAES), Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas 77843-2138
Stephan L. Hatch, Director
Dale A. Kruse, Curator
Herbaria are archives of plant biodiversity over time and space. Typically these collections house a varying assemblage of plant specimens to include: angiosperms (flowering plants), gymnosperms (cone bearing plants), ferns, bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, hornworts), algae, lichens, and fungi. Specimens are traditionally stored utilizing archival methods to ensure long-term viability of the specimens. Herbarium specimens and living populations comprise the basic research material of plant taxonomists. These records are important to botanists who are interested in a broad range of research to include: systematics, rare and endangered species, biogeography, and invasive species. Herbaria are also consulted by foresters, agronomists, and ecologists to determine the identity of a plant and to document the past and present ranges of plants.
The S. M. Tracy Herbarium originated in the early 1930's based on collections of several individuals, including the outstanding botanist-agriculturist Samuel Mills Tracy (1847-1920), for whom the herbarium is named. Other important collections include Ferdinand Jakob Lindheimer (1801-1879), Victor Louis Cory (1880-1964), Harris Braley Parks (1879-1958), Frank Walton Gould (1913-1981), and many of the earliest “big thicket” collections made by Geraldine Watson (1927-2012). Of the 188 extant herbaria in the southern United States, the S. M. Tracy Herbarium ranks 10th in size, and is the 3rd largest herbarium in Texas. The collection currently houses nearly 300,000 specimens and adds approximately 2500 - 3000 new accessions per year. The type collection at TAES consists of 199 specimens, of which, 130 are Poaceae, 19 Asteraceae, 17 Cyperaceae, and includes 15 holotypes.
Originally in the Department of Range and Forestry, now Ecosystem Science and Management, TAES has traditionally placed a strong emphasis on grass systematics and ecology. As a result, a substantial portion of the specimens are in the Poaceae family. This represents the largest collection of grasses in Texas, and one of the largest regionally. Due in large part to these grass holdings, TAES was designated a National Resource Collection in 1979. Other vascular plant families with significant representations are the Asteraceae (ca. 20,000), Cyperaceae (ca. 11,000), Fabaceae (ca. 7000), Euphorbiaceae (ca. 3000), Rosaceae (ca. 3000), and Juncaceae (ca. 1000). Increasing the taxonomic breadth of the collection, in recent years TAES has added a substantial number of bryophyte collections (ca. 6,000) to its holdings. In addition, TAES also houses the largest collections of fungi (ca. 1750) and algae (ca. 900) of any herbarium in Texas.
New acquisitions are obtained through the annual collection efforts of herbarium faculty, staff and students associated with research and educational pursuits, and also through an on-going exchange program with nearly 35 worldwide herbaria. Specimens in the collection cover a wide range of temporal, geographic, and taxonomic distributions. The oldest collections date as far back as 1820, with a good representation of specimens from the mid to late 1800’s. The geographic distribution of the collection encompasses every continent, including Antarctica, although the majority of accessions are from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. The primary geographic emphasis of the collection is Texas, the southern United States and northern Mexico. TAES is also the designated voucher repository for several National Park Service units: Big Thicket National Preserve, Padre Island National Seashore, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, Natchez Trace National Parkway. In recent years, these active agreements have resulted in nearly 13,000 accessions alone. Various other state and federal agencies also utilize TAES as a repository for vouchers resulting from their research activities (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA-NRCS).