The herbarium was founded in 1970 to assist the biologists in their studies of the vegetation and floras of both Nevada and the Southwestern deserts. The collection represents a relatively recent acquisition of plant specimens. With UNLV being the only four-year university located within the Mojave Desert, collectors have centered their activities largely within that geographical area, resulting in a collection that today is the best single representation available of the Mojave Desert flora.
The herbarium collection consists of approximately 65,000 specimens of vascular plants, and a small but rapidly expanding number of mosses and liverworts. It is one of few herbaria in the country that currently has its entire vascular plant collection accessible through a computerized database (Paradox). Allowing for more effective management and retrieval of collection information, the database is especially useful in addressing the geographical and ecological distribution of plant taxa, evaluating the status and conservation of rare species, and developing local and regional plant checklists and floras.
National Resource Collection
In 1974, the Advisory Committee for the Systematic Resources in Botany (Systematic Botany Resources in America, Part I) surveyed 1,200 herbaria in the United States. Of these, 105 were designated as “National Resource Collections.” These collections were described as being, “of such importance for systematic study that their loss or inaccessibility would seriously impair our ability to carry on taxonomic research in the United States and the world.” The herbarium at UNLV was the only herbarium within the state of Nevada and in the Mojave Desert to be so designated.