The Snake River Plains (SRP) herbarium at Boise State University is a museum of plant, fungal, and lichen specimens to be used for basic and applied research by the Boise State University faculty, state and federal land managers working in southwest Idaho, and citizen scientists with legitimate botanical questions. Currently through the use of loans the collection is also accessible to the botanical community at large. With digitization of the collection the materials will be accessible without direct handling to the global botanical and ecological research community.
Director Contact Information
Dept. of Biological Sciences
1910 University Drive
Boise State University, Boise, ID 83725-1515
The Snake River Plains started as a small teaching collection comprised mostly of student collections made in southwestern Idaho as part of their plant systematics classes. In 1992 the Idaho Fish and Game (IDFGH) herbarium was transferred to Boise State University and an exchange program was set up with herbaria in surrounding states to increase the capacity of the herbarium and start its transformation to a research collection. It now contains over 65,000 vascular plant specimens, 700 macrofungal collections and is home to the Roger Rosentreter lichen collection of over 15,000 lichens. The focus of the collection is on southwest Idaho but with substantial collections from the mountains to the north and east of Boise.
Online Collection Search
Boise State University is part of the digitization project (SWITCH), a searchable online database is hosted by the Pacific Northwest portal at the University of Washington (http://www.pnwherbaria.org/). Records from the Snake River Plains herbarium are identified with the prefix SRP and loans of those collections should be directed to the director of SRP.
Other Online Resources
The Snake River Plains houses numerous collections of ecological and historical importance. The Idaho Fish and Game Herbarium (IDFGH) was transferred to SRP in 1992 and consists of voucher collections for plant surveys conducted across Idaho in the 1970’s with collections from Jim Grimes, Barbara Ertter, and Cecil Brown.
Many of the voucher collections for the Flora of the World project are housed at SRP.
The Roger Rosentreter lichen collection consists of over 15,000 specimens that have been recently curated for species identification and georeferenced.
Through exchange the collection has gained numerous collections of historical importance including specimens of Cusick, Clausen, Hitchcock, Kelsey, Thomas, Tiehm, and Baker.
Current director, Jim Smith, continues to add to the collection and has contributed over 10,000 specimens from Idaho.
Digitization Project (SWITCH)
Although the collection is physically and permanently held at Boise State University, the digital age provides a means of sharing the collection to the global botanical community. In 2011, the National Science Foundation funded a grant proposal in collaboration with the College of Idaho herbarium (CIC) to digitize all of the vascular, fungal and lichen collections at not only the two host institutions, but all of the smaller collections in southwest Idaho and adjacent Oregon that are maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. This project is identified as the acronym SWITCH: SouthWest Idaho, The Comprehensive Herbarium.
Over 120,000 collections have been digitized and the images and corresponding label data are accessible via the Pacific Northwest portal and the Intermountain Regional Herbarium Network.
The work at the herbarium could not be completed without the contribution of numerous volunteers over the years. Students and members of the community have donated collections, mounted specimens, entered information into the database and filed collections, not to mention helping with the move of the herbarium to its current space.
Volunteering for its own sake may be enough reward for some people, but seeing numerous plant collections is a great way to learn plant names and how the plants are classified into families. Many of our volunteers have commented that their experience in the herbarium was a deciding factor when they successfully applied for plant related jobs.
If you are interested in assisting with the collection, contact the director.
Idaho Botanical Foray
In 2008 Boise State University hosted the first Idaho Botanical Foray modeled after the University of Washington Botanical Foray system. Botanists, plant enthusiasts and people that just like to be outside are invited to gather for a 4-day camping and plant collection event. Each day the entire group divides into smaller groups of 3-5 people and goes to a specific site selected each day. The goal is to collect all fertile vascular plants in that area, and press them for eventual drying and processing back at the home institution. During winter months keying workshops are held to identify the plants and to add further instruction on keying and plant terminology for those that have less experience.
The foray is a great way to learn about the Idaho flora while assisting the long-term enhancement of herbarium collections that serve as the permanent record of plant life in our state. Processing the collections must be done with accuracy and care, but experienced botanists are present in each group to provide advice and training on the collection, pressing and note-taking steps. No previous experience is needed for anyone that is interested and participants are encouraged to enjoy the weekend as well with a potluck dinner held on the Saturday evening followed by the “bring something from home or work to burn” bonfire that can be a great way to rid your life of some past frustrations (please bring only non-toxic materials!).
The Idaho Botanical Foray is designed to be a truly statewide foray and currently the host institution rotates among the four largest plant collections in the state. In 2008 (Mt. Harrison), 2009 (Wildhorse Creek area), 2013 (Hazard Lake area), and 2017 (Bear Valley) the host was Boise State University, in 2010 (Yankee Fork), 2014 (Nevada), and 2018 (Soldier Mountain) it was the College of Idaho, in 2011 (the Payette National Forest north of the Cuddy Mountains), 2015 (Selway Wilderness) It was University of Idaho, and in 2012 (Bear Lake County) and 2016 (Pahsimerois) the foray was hosted by Idaho State University. We continue with the four year rotation with the University of Idaho hosting in 2019, Idaho State University in 2020, and Boise State University in 2021. The host institution selects the site, provides the campsite and in turn is the recipient of the collections – however, members from other institutions can participate and receive a “set” of their collections made during the foray without considered as exchange.
For more information or to be added to the foray e-mail list contact the director.
Accessing the Collections
The collections can be accessed digitally using the Pacific Northwest portal.
If you are conducting a specific research project and need to see the collections themselves, they can be visited on the Boise State University campus. Please contact the director for directions and to be certain that the collection will be open. The herbarium does not have regular business hours, but can be accessed year-round with prior arrangements.
Please note that the collections are not accessible to the general public unless a specific research objective needs the use of the collections. Questions on general plant identifications should be directed to the director before requesting to visit the collection or borrow specimens.
Specimens are also available on loan to other herbaria. To request a loan, an e-mail from the borrowing institution must include what is to be borrowed, duration and purpose for the loan. Destructive sampling may be permitted, but a request must be made with justification prior to getting permission.
The Snake River Plains herbarium has an active exchange program with the following herbaria: BRY, CIC, ID, IDS, MICH, MO, MONT, MONTU, MU, UTC, WIS, WS, and WTU.
If you are interested in setting up an exchange program, or having a one-time exchange, please contact the director.
Flora of the World
Digitized herbarium specimens are a valuable resource to professional botanists, but there is nothing compared to actually seeing the live plant in the field. Second to the live plant are images of live plants. While we have many live plants on our website, we currently do not have the full capacity to provide names for all images, nor provide as many photographs of live plants as we would like. A good source for photographs of live plants is the Flora of the World project. Many of the vouchers for this project are housed at SRP.