Welcome to the NPWRC Herbarium

The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center's herbarium was established in the 1960's to house reference and voucher specimens of plants for researchers in wetland and waterfowl ecology in the northern Great Plains. Since then, specimens from many other areas of the United States and Canada have been added to the collection. In 1978, the Herbarium (code NPWRC) was listed in the International Index Herbariorum to facilitate inter-herbarium loans and exchanges.

Today, the NPWRC herbarium houses over 6,000 plant specimens. All specimens in the collection are in a searchable database that can be accessed from this page. For more information on the NPWRC Herbarium, please contact the collection's manager using the “Contact Us” form found on this page.

Featured Plant - Physalis virginiana

Plant Image

A plant found mostly in eastern North Dakota, Virginia ground cherry becomes quite scarce south and west of the Missouri River. Elsewhere, the plant occurs from Quebec to Manitoba south to South Carolina and Arizona.

Virginia ground cherry is a rhizomatous perennial from a deeply buried stem base. Each base usually supports one to six slightly hairy stems that are forked with ascending branches. North Dakota plants are usually about 8-12 inches tall. The pale green leaves are alternate, lance-shaped, and about two to three inches long, with half inch petioles. Each stem bears about a dozen greenish-white flowers in the upper leaf axils. Flowers are about a half inch long and droop down on thin pedicels. In fruit, a flower base (calyx) inflates into a large, five-angled, bladder-like structure. Inside is a half inch diameter, juicy berry full of yellow seeds.

Look for Virginia ground cherry from early July to September in native prairie. Most plants will be found in slightly moister sites, especially in sandy soils. More plants seem to grow where grazing is light or moderate. Amerindians relished the fruits, which were eaten raw or made into sauces.

Virginia ground cherry is a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) which contains about 3,000 species, widely distributed, but most numerous in tropical America. The family includes Chinese lanterns, bittersweet, pepper, petunia, potato, and tobacco, to name a few. Some members, like henbane and deadly nightshade, are poisonous. The genus Physalis (Greek for "a bladder" from the inflated calyx) contains about 100 species worldwide, but only two occur in North Dakota. The specific name virginiana means "Virginian" in botanical Latin.

Virginia ground cherry was first described for science by Philip Miller (1691-1771), famous British gardener and author of The Gardener's Dictionary (1731) which went through eight editions.

Author Credit:

"Plant of the Week" comes from a series of articles about native wildflowers of the North Dakota grasslands written by NPWRC biologist Harold A. Kantrud. The articles appeared weekly in local newspapers. Each article is three to four paragraphs in length and usually consists of the life history of the species, its identifying traits, where in North Dakota one can expect to find it, and its nomenclatural history. Kurt A. Adolfson and Jack Lefor provided the many excellent photographs used in the original articles and this resource.