Humboldt State University

Robert A. Paselk Scientific Instrument Museum

Humboldt's Latin American Expedition, 1799–1804

Richard Paselk, Curator

Plant Specimens and Documentation

Mahonia herberium specimen photo icon

California Barberry

Mahoneia pinnata (Lag.) herbarium mount

1964; HSU Herbarium

Lobelia engraving scan icon

Mahoneia pinnata (Lag.) inscibed Berberis pinnata

Scan of Plate 60 from H. Walter Lack (2009) Alexander von Humboldt and the Botanical Exploration of the Americas.Prestel, Munich.

Original in C.S. Kunth (1821) Nova genera et species plantarum. vol. 5.1.434. Paris

Humboldt and his expedition companion/collaborator, Aimé Bonpland, collected over 60,000 plant specimens representing over 6,000 species, of which more than 3,000 were new to science. One of the many resulting engravings commissioned by Humboldt, with his own fortune and other funds raised by him, after the expedition is shown in the open book. A specimen from the HSU herbarium of the same species is next to the illustration. Mahoneia pinnata (Lag.) (synonym of the inscibed Berberis pinnata) ranges over south-western North America, including California and Mexico. Our specimen is one of nearly 100,000 plant specimens in the HSU Vascular Plant Herbarium. It was collected in Humboldt County by a student in 1977. Note the degraded colors in the specimen. The artists and interpreters commissioned by Humboldt often had to recreate the colors from these specimens and information from Humboldt and Bonpland's notes etc.

In the gold frame behind them is one of Humboldt’s own original drawings (left) and the engraving made from it (right). Finally, Humboldt and Bonpland used a microscope as an aid in identifying and characterizing specimens as well as observing small items and details of all kinds.


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© R. Paselk

Last modified 21 August 2013