University of Alberta Vascular Plant Herbarium (ALTA) - University of Alberta Museums University of Alberta Museums
About the Collection   |   History   |   Projects   |   Major Collectors and Selected Publications

About the Collection

Random Vascular Plant

The University of Alberta Vascular Plant Herbarium is part of the University of Alberta Herbarium (ALTA) and is a research and teaching resource for the study of evolution, diversity, distribution and ecology of cordilleran, prairie, arctic and alpine plants. It is the largest herbaria of its kind in Alberta, and the third largest in Western Canada.

The University of Alberta's Vascular Plant Herbarium is located in the Biological Sciences Building in B-613 (sixth floor of the Botany wing). The herbarium is open to visitors Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm (except University holidays). To arrange access, contact the Curator or Assistant Curator.

Facts about the Vascular Plant Herbarium and the University of Alberta:


The Herbarium was founded in 1912 when Francis John Lewis (b1875-d1955) came to the University of Alberta as the first biologist and head of the Biology Department. He served as the first head of the Department of Botany from 1922 to 1938. His research focused on the vegetation of central Alberta, and his collection of fungi, vascular and non-vascular plants helped establish the herbarium.

Ezra H. Moss (b1892-d1963) joined the U of A staff in 1921, became professor and head of the Department of Botany in 1938, and retired in 1958. His publication, The Flora of Alberta (1959), synthesized the floristic knowledge of the province based on his own work and that of Hugh Raup, William C. McCalla, and George Turner.

John G. Packer became Curator of the herbarium in 1958. Until his retirement in 1988, his main research interests were the origin and evolution of the arctic and alpine flora, in particular the effects of the quaternary glaciations. In 1983, he published a revised edition of Moss's Flora of Alberta, which remains the standard reference for Alberta and adjacent regions. Packer's collections were primarily from Alberta, Alaska, and the Northwest and Yukon Territories. He participated in one of the Department's extensive research programs during this time: a study of the ecosystem of Devon Island, Northwest Territories, in conjunction with the International Biological Programme's Tundra Biome Project (1969-1975).

In the 1980's, the Herbarium was split into the Vascular Plant Herbarium and the Cryptogamic Herbarium, which houses bryophytes, fungi and lichens. Both these collections, along with the Paleobotanical collection, remain associated under the acronym ALTA.

The Botany Department became part of the newly formed Department of Biological Sciences in 1994.

In 2002, with the assistance of the University of Alberta Museums, the Vascular Plant Herbarium began a program to database specimen collection information.


Major Collectors and Selected Publications

Robert G. H. Cormack

Madeleine G. Dumais

William Copland McCalla

Ezra Henry Moss, (b1892 - d1963)

John G. Packer

George H. Turner