Environment & Climate

Famous Fungus

Fungi Columbiana

The fungus among us. Wisconsin State Herbarium


George Washington Carver studied plant diseases and shared specimens with the UW. Shutterstock.

Earlier this year, staffers at the Wisconsin State Herbarium were transferring specimens into newly expanded space, when they discovered something unexpected: examples of fungi collected by George Washington Carver.

The prominent botanist, who had been born a slave and rose to lead the agricultural department at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute for forty-seven years, collected specimens of fungi that infect plants, and he shared at least twenty-five of them with the UW (including these hibiscus leaves, which are infected with rust).

The herbarium has a grant from the National Science Foundation to create a digital database of its fungi. With 120,000 specimens of microfungi, it has the country’s second-largest collection.

Published in the Summer 2016 issue


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