Located below are descriptions of notable contributors to the UC Davis Herbarium.
Director of the Botany Herbarium 1986-1993
Dr. Webster came to UC Davis in 1966 to assume the Directorship of the UC Davis Arboretum. Subsequently he served as Director of the J.M. Tucker Herbarium from 1986 until his retirement in 1993. A leader in the field of Systematic Botany, he specialized in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) and contributed his expertise to many floras worldwide. In 1996 he received the Engler Medal from the International Society for Plant Taxonomy for his 1994 publication Classification of the Euphorbiaceae, published in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He was an avid field collector, having over 35,000 plant collections to his credit. After his retirement he continued to collect, especially in his native Texas and Ecuador, and study and publish on euphorbs, especially the genus Phyllanthus. He died in October 2005, just after returning from another successful collecting trip.
John M. Tucker
Director of the Botany Herbarium 1947-1986
Dr. Tucker, who specialized in the genus Quercus (oaks), came to UC Davis in 1947. For 39 years he served as Director of the Botany Department Herbarium (DAV) and Professor of Botany, teaching Plant Taxonomy and other courses. He also served twice as Director of the UC Davis Arboretum. As a result of the active exchange program that he initiated, Dr. Tucker increased the holdings of the Botany Department Herbarium from 10,000 specimens to 150,000. Dr. Tucker contributed taxonomic treatments of Quercus to several publications, including the current flora for California, The Jepson Manual, and he published widely on hybridization in oaks. Upon his retirement in 1986, the Botany Department Herbarium was renamed the J.M. Tucker Herbarium. He continued to study oaks in retirement and completed the treatment of the genus for the 2012 edition of The Jepson Manual, shortly before his death in July 2008.
Director of the Agronomy Herbarium 1952-1984
Professor Crampton joined the UC Davis campus in 1952, when he became the Director of the Agronomy and Range Science Herbarium (AHUC), a position he held until 1984. He taught several courses, including Range Plant Identification and California Wildflowers. Beecher’s specialty was grass taxonomy, and under his direction AHUC’s grass collection became one of the finest in the state. He was an active collector; during his time at UC Davis he discovered several new species and varieties of grasses, the most well known of which is the rare vernal pool grass Tuctoria mucronata. His 1974 publication, Grasses in California, is still widely used. Upon his retirement in 1984, AHUC was renamed the Beecher Crampton Herbarium Collection. It was integrated with the J. M. Tucker Herbarium in the 1990s; digitization of label data from this collection has made AHUC’s grasses widely available to the research community. Beecher Crampton died in August 2002.
Curator of the Botany Herbarium 1953-1991
June McCaskill came to UC Davis in 1953 to be the first Curator of the Botany Department Herbarium. Primarily responsible for supplying plant identifications for University and agricultural extension staff and the public, she earned a statewide reputation for accuracy and excellent public service. Her expertise in poisonous plants aided both the livestock industry and prosecutors in several murder cases. June continued to assist in the herbarium after her 1991 retirement; the plant identification laboratory of the Center for Plant Diversity was endowed in her honor by friends and former colleagues. She died in 2001.
Director of the Botany Herbarium 1928-1946
Although her lasting contributions to botany are in plant anatomy, Katherine Esau began her career at UC Davis in 1928 as a graduate student working on sugar beet diseases. After completing her Ph. D. in 1931 she continued at Davis as an instructor in botany and Junior Botanist in the Experiment Station. Her specimens in the herbarium reflect the local flora and would have been useful in early plant identification classes. She taught plant taxonomy and was in charge of the Botany Department Herbarium in the 1930s and early 1940s. Her research in plant disease led to critical discoveries about the role of plant conductive tissue and to a 1953 book, Plant Anatomy, which was profoundly influential. Dr. Esau continued her research at UC Davis until 1963, when she relocated to UC Santa Barbara. She died in 1997.
Wilfred W. Robbins
Director of the Botany Herbarium 1922-1928
Wilfred Robbins, for whom Robbins Hall is named, arrived at UC Davis in 1922 and founded the Botany Department Herbarium which was mainly a reference collection for himself and his students. Early specimens were often weeds sent in for identification. Robbins’ collections reflect his interest in weeds and poisonous plants. He published Weeds of California in 1940 and retired in 1951 and died in 1952.
Patrick B. Kennedy
Director of the Agronomy Herbarium 1913-1930
Patrick Kennedy was a clover expert who started the UC Agronomy Herbarium at Berkeley in 1913 and moved his herbarium to UC Davis in 1926. He collected widely, and we have hundreds of his specimens. He died in 1930.