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Park and Recreation has accepted the donation from UNC Charlotte of more than 50,000 natural history specimens.
December 12, 2006

Mecklenburg County has accepted the donation from UNC Charlotte of more than 50,000 natural history specimens. The specimens represent an exceptional history of plants and animals of the Piedmont/greater Charlotte region in North and South Carolina.

This herbarium and zoological collection is valued at about $750,000. It will be preserved and displayed at the Reedy Creek Nature Center by the Stewardship Services Division of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. "When the university indicated a desire to get out of the business of preserving this collection, we were glad we could step up to save the collection," said Stewardship Director Michael Kirschman. "We'll keep it together and make it available locally to students, professors and natural resource staff. It is an important tool for those interested in natural areas management, botany, ecological studies, or history." Parts of the collection will also be available to the public.

These specimens of plants and animals were collected over the past forty years. During that time even older collections and specimens were added. The earliest sample now dates to 1872. The most recent is only weeks old. This will continue to be a "working" collection. It is always being expanded as additional specimens are found. The Stewardship Division intends to keep it available for future generations.

Most of the collection is now stored temporarily at the Conservation Science Office at the Reedy Creek Nature Preserve, 9401 Plaza Road Extension. The Park and Recreation Department plans a $300,000 expansion of the nature center in 2008 to display the collection in a controlled environment.

The herbarium preserves more than 42,000 specimens including such rare or endangered plants as the Schweinitz Sunflower, Georgia Astor, and Smooth Coneflower. The herbarium contains specimens from all 50 states and all 100 North Carolina counties, with the majority collected in the Piedmont region. This plant collection is the only one in existence that provides detailed historical data from the central Carolina region.

The zoological collection has about 8,000 specimens, most preserved in formaldehyde in glass containers. These include samples of birds, salamanders, insects, butterflies, and every fish species ever documented in Mecklenburg County, except one: the Carolina Darter. Not all of the animal samples have yet been delivered to Reedy Creek.

More information on the County's Division of Natural Resources is available by clicking here.

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