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 - Gaillardia aristata

Plant Image

Many North Dakotans consider blanketflower their favorite prairie plant. The plant has been found in nearly every county in the state and also occupies the crescent of dry grasslands that stretch from the prairie provinces of Canada to Arizona, at elevations under 9,000 ft. In addition, blanketflower has adapted to conditions found in the sagebrush grasslands of the Great Basin.

This plant grows up to a foot and a half tall in our area. The most striking feature of the plant is the flower heads. These are brown in the center, with rays that are purple at the base and yellow at the tip; this pattern gives the three-colored "blanket" effect. Leaves are long and toothed at the bottom of the stem, but are smaller, narrower, and toothless upwards. A short taproot lies below the slightly bulbous base. Fruits are 3/16-inch-long achenes equipped with long, silky hairs.

Blanketflower is often grown as an ornamental. Plants can be found in just about any grazed native pasture except perhaps those heavily stocked with sheep.

Blanketflower is a member of the huge sunflower family (Asteraceae) which contains nearly 200 species in North Dakota, and about 15,000 species worldwide. In this family, many flowers are grouped into heads often erroneously thought of as single flowers by laypersons. Aster means "star" in Greek, in ascription to the radiate arrangement of the flowers in the heads. The genus was dedicated in 1788 in honor of the early French botanist Gaillard de Charentonneau. Aristata means "bearing bristles" in botanical Latin, in reference to the rough hairy leaves and stems. Botanist Frederick Pursh described this plant species for science in his monumental Flora Americae Septentrionale published in 1814.

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.