In June 1995, the Department of Forestry assumed responsibility for the University of Kentucky Herbarium. The Herbarium had been since its inception in 1934 the responsibility of the School of Biological Sciences. There are over 50,000 specimen sheets of vascular plants in the main collection. Over 280 plant families are represented, 2/3 of which have representative species in the Kentucky flora. The great majority of the specimens housed here represent collections made in the state or neighboring states; a few collections from the tropics (less than 1% of the collection but 1/3 of the families represented!) are useful for teaching purposes. Although relatively small compared to herbaria at universities in neighboring states, the U.K. Herbarium is the oldest and largest collection of plant specimens in Kentucky. Botanical collecting in Kentucky of course long predated the formal organization of the Herbarium in 1934, and many specimens collected earlier and housed privately eventually found their way into the Herbarium, including collections of C.W.Short, a Lexington physician and noted 19th century botanist who collected extensively in the region.

Tragedy struck in 1948 when a fire destroyed the collection, including the collections of its original organizer, Frank T. McFarland. The only specimens from the Herbarium which predate this tragic occurrence were those out on loan at the time. Rebuilding the collection was aided immensely by the support of sister institutions, which supplied duplicate sheets from their own collections. There are, consequently, many sheets with collection dates that long precede the fire. However, the bulk of the materials have been collected since 1948.

Important later collections include those of E.T. Browne, Ray Cranfill, Mary Wharton, B.B. McInteer, Willem Meijer and Julian Campbell. In addition to the main collection housed in Forestry and discussed here, there is a substantial collection of plants important in weed science housed in the Department of Agronomy.

The Herbarium is housed in room 222 in the Dimock Animal Pathology building on the UK Campus. In addition to the main plant collection, the Herbarium houses a small collection of dried fruits of native trees, a nearly complete collection of 7.5 minute topographic maps of Kentucky, and a collection of botanical references.

Herbarium's Mission

  1. To support basic and applied research in the plant sciences, particularly taxonomy, geography, and ecology;
  2. To support instruction in the plant sciences especially in Botany, Horticulture,Forestry and Agronomy;
  3. To support the University of Kentucky's outreach mandate for public education, particularly for the identification of plants and to answer queries about the state's native and introduced plant life.

Woody Plant and Wildflower Identification

The Curator is happy to identify specimens sent in. It is always desirable to include plant material with some reproductive structures; sending them in a plastic container (like a kitchen baggy) will help keep the tissues reasonably life-like; pressing dry between newspaper is even better.


Hours are usually 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday. Calling ahead is encouraged, as the Curator, is sometimes out of the office. Arrangement can easily be made to use the collection at times outside the normal business day (evenings, weekends) by contacting the Curator.


Robert Paratley
(859) 257-3094
Department of Forestry
217 T.P. Cooper Building
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40546-0073

Robert D. Paratley
Curator of University Herbarium | 217 T.P. Cooper Building