The Freeman Herbarium (AUA) contains approximately 75,000 vascular plants, over 3,000 fungi, 2000 lichens and 1,500 bryophytes. The herbarium is the largest in the state and has been designated the state herbarium. The specimen holdings are richest from Alabama and the southeastern United States though collections also exist from every state in the US and every continent in the world except Antarctica.
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The herbarium was founded in the early part of this century mainly for use in teaching. In October of 1920 a fire engulfed Comer Hall where the herbarium was housed and resulted in complete loss of the collection. An herbarium was gradually rebuilt after the fire, and by 1968 it contained a total of 11,300 sheets of specimens. Herbarium growth since 1968 was due mainly to the late Dr. John D. Freeman. He emphasized that collecting and the herbarium were essential and valuable botanical research tools. He initiated active exchange programs and directed several graduate research studies to document the flora and assess plant distributions in critical areas. He was an expert in the genus Trillium among other genera. In 1974 and 1979, the Advisory Committee for Systematic Resources in Botany selected this herbarium (one of 105 nationwide) as a National Resource Collection. In honor of Dr. Freeman and his indefatigable efforts the herbarium at Auburn University is named after him.
The collection houses valuable historic specimens dating to the nineteenth century including those of E. F. Andrews, A. W. Chapman, and W. Wolf. The Freeman Herbarium is regarded as the State Herbarium for Alabama and is the repository for plants collected by the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. Important collections include type specimens of several vascular plants and over 100 Deuteromycetes.
In 1995, the Freeman Herbarium acquired the herbarium from St. Bernard College (SB) in Cullman, Alabama. The herbarium staff are currently accessioning and incorporating this important collection of about 5000 specimens.
The herbarium serves as a vital resource for teaching and research. Botanists and interested students visit the facility each month to answer questions about plant identification, check actual collections or review records in the database. It serves various natural science departments at Auburn University and at other local colleges and universities, government agencies, as well as wildflower societies that have an interest in the local or regional southeastern flora. An important function of the herbarium staff is to provide plant identification for the Alabama Poison Center, the Medical Examiner’s office, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, and others.