Fungi and Lichens - History

The Mycology Collection at The Field Museum is a major resource for mycological systematic and biodiversity studies. It consists of approximately 157,000 specimens with world-wide coverage and broad taxonomic representation. It is rich in type collections, especially of Neotropical taxa. The greatest strengths of the collection are the Agaricales sensu lato (e.g., mushrooms, boletes, false-truffles, puffballs, chantrelles, tooth fungi, and coral fungi) and the lichenized Ascomycetes of the Western Hemisphere. The collection is especially significant in that it is one of only two active, large centers for Neotropical Agaricales in North America, and one of only a handful of herbaria active in such studies in the Western Hemisphere. Specific components of the collection are discussed below


The collection attained worldwide prominence largely through the efforts of the late Rolf Singer, resident Research Associate for twenty-five years and author of The Agaricales in Modern Taxonomy, now in its fourth edition. Singer was the most active student of Tropical American Agaricales. He also collected and published widely on extralimital American taxa. Many of his collections, including types, and all of his field books and collection notes which include unpublished descriptions, illustrations and keys, are deposited at The Field Museum. A computerized index to the more than 2,500 new taxa (not counting new names and new combinations) published by Singer during his 70-year career has been completed. It documents 595 holotypes at The Field Museum with the remaining types distributed in forty-one other herbaria. In addition to having the largest number of Singer types, The Field Museum houses authentic material of many of his other taxa. Singer's collections and notes are indispensable for systematic, ecological and biodiversity studies of higher fungi and are a major strength of the Museum's holdings.

Other important holdings of Agaricales include the 10,000 specimens of E. T. Harper, which represents one of the preeminent collections of fungi from the central Great Lakes region. These specimens were used as the basis of several books on the fungi of the region. These midwestern collections have been supplemented by numerous more recent collections by Mueller, Singer, Wu, Huhndorf, members of the Illinois Mycological Association, and by the recent acquisition of the fungal herbarium from the Ford Forestry Center, L'Anse, Michigan (1,500 specimens from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). The Field Museum also houses one of the largest and most complete collections of Agaricales from the Gulf Coast States. This collection includes over 3,500 specimens of east Texas fungi donated by D. P. Lewis (Vidor, Texas). Recently, W. Cibula (Picayune, MS) has committed to donate his large collection of Louisiana and Mississippi fungi to Field Museum. These Gulf Coast collections complement the major collecting program on neotropical oak and pine forest fungi being undertaken by Mueller and colleagues. Besides Singer's and Mueller's specimens, outstanding collections from Mexico and Central America include those of J. García (eastern Mexico) and L. D. Gómez and associates (Costa Rica). The collections of Singer, Mueller and Gómez constitute the largest and most important holdings of Central American Agaricales in the world.

  • Go to the Singer Index: A searchable database for Rolf Singer's fungal genera, species, infra-species, and publications.
  • Go to the NAMA Voucher Collection Project: A searchable database of collections and images from North American Mycological Association forays.


This important component of our herbarium has nearly 90,000 specimens. The lichenized ascomycete collection has broad taxonomic and geographic representation with its major strengths in North and Central American material. Among its important holdings are North American collections compiled by A. W. Herre, E. Hall, and A. B. Seymour; Central American material collected by P. C. Standley (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua) and J. A. Steyermark (Guatemala); and European collections of C. Sbarbaro. There is also a large Illinois and Chicago area component to the collection. The nonlichenized ascomycete collection also has broad taxonomic and geographic representation. The Great Lakes region is well represented by the collections of E. T. Harper, while P. C. Standley and J. Steyermark deposited Central and South American material. The collection includes a large number of European specimens that were distributed by P. Sydow, O. Jaap, P. Vogel, and the Fuckel Herbarium. Recently, the collection has seen a sharp increase in the number of tropical loculoascomycetes and pyrenomycetous ascomycetes due to the activities of Adjunct Curator Sabine Huhndorf.

The lichen collection consists of 52,000 specimens, including 1,405 types, and ranks sixth nationally. Important collections include those of A. W. Herre and E. Hall (North America), P.C. Standley (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua), J. A. Steyermark (Guatemala), C. Sbarbaro (Europe) and A. B. Seymour (Eastern North America). Recently, the collection has been expanded by collecting activities mainly of Robert Luecking and Thorsten Lumbsch.