Vermont's principal botanical collection
The Pringle Herbarium serves systematic and floristics research both regionally and globally, with a geographic focus on Vermont and the New World tropics. Established in 1902, the collection holds over 350,000 sheets of mounted plants and fungi. It is the third largest herbarium in New England.
Insights into the evolutionary origins of ferns
Curator Michael Sundue and former Ph.D. student Weston Testo present a time-calibrated phylogeny of ferns, the second-most diverse lineage of vascular plants on Earth, that includes nearly half of extant fern diversity—by far the most comprehensive phylogeny of the group ever published. Their study in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution challenges previous hypotheses on the evolutionary history of ferns and offers a new paradigm for their Cenozoic radiation.
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Overview of Our Collections
The collections of our namesake, Cyrus Guernsey Pringle (1838-1911), a self-taught plant breeder and botanist with 1200 type specimens to his name, form the foundation of our herbarium. Pringle exchanged over 500,000 sheets with two dozen herbaria around the world, bringing in a geographically and taxonomically diverse representation of the world’s flora. His rich offerings, many from pioneering expeditions in Mexico, Central America, and the southwestern United States, led exchange partners to send unusually choice specimens. Notably, the Berlin-Dahlem herbarium, later destroyed in World War II, sent specimens from Friedrich Sellow, one of the first European naturalists to explore Brazil.
The Pringle Herbarium holds the largest collection of Vermont flora in the world. Vermont’s climatic and edaphic diversity has drawn botanists for two centuries, and we house all of the major collections from the state, including the early herbaria of Frances and Adelia Penniman (ca. 1815), Charles Frost (1840s-’50s), and Joseph Torrey, former president of UVM (1840s). Now, the Pringle’s collections—fully imaged as of 2018—represent a broad cross-section of the North American flora and hail from every continent except Antarctica.
Vermont boasts a strong community of professionals documenting the diversity and distribution of the regional flora. In keeping with our state's reputation as a pacesetter in environmental policy, the Pringle Herbarium strives to coordinate its mission with natural resource planners, who regularly consult our collections and stimulate our research. We also host the state’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Flora, part of the Endangered Species Coalition.
Library and Archives
Our library and archives are open to researchers during regular hours or by appointment. We are not a lending library and are not integrated with the University library collection. However, scans of selected texts for research purposes are available by request. Cyrus Pringle's notebooks from 1869-1909 are available through ScholarWorks (institutional log-in required).
The Pringle Herbarium Library holds general botany titles and flora for vascular plants and bryophytes of the world, with an emphasis on the Americas. The nucleus of the library is the plant systematics collection, donated by the estate of pteridologist Hugh Churchill.
The Alice and Rolla Tryon Pteridophyte Library comprises systematic literature for ferns and lycophytes, with a focus on classification and nomenclature. The Tryons were prominent Harvard pteridologists who specialized in ferns of tropical America. Their personal research library was presented as a gift to the Pringle Herbarium in 2002 by Alice Tryon, who wished it to be available to scholars and students interested in the diversity and evolution of the ferns and lycophytes. The collection also includes the library of Danish botanist Carl Christensen (1872-1942), purchased by the Tryons, as well as literature from the personal collections of Hugh Churchill and David Barrington.
The herbarium's archives chronicle 200 years of New England botanical history through correspondence, photographs, and field notebooks. Of particular value are the papers of Cyrus Pringle, including his daily field journals, and archival materials of the Vermont Bird and Botanical Club.
Loans of specimens are available to established herbaria for study by their staff, associated professionals and students. Returned loans must be annotated unless a specific explanation is provided to the curator. Contact us to request a loan.
Destructive Sampling Policy
Destructive sampling of Pringle specimens is possible with written request to our curator, David Barrington, including a justification for the sampling and an indication of the likelihood that the results of the sampling (ordinarily molecular-genetic information) will reach the scientific community via a publication or a common portal such as Genbank. The returned specimens need to be annotated with the nature of the material removed and, if possible, the relevant publication.