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The Henry David Thoreau Herbarium


Henry David Thoreau

Researchers may consult materials from the archives only by appointment or written request. Send inquiries to Please allow 2-3 business days for the processing of written and e-mailed requests.

Below is a listing of the The The Henry David Thoreau Herbarium collections. Click on a link to access specific sections of the finding aid. These will provide you with biographical information, collection scope, size, and material types.


Henry David Thoreau may be best known as a writer, but he was also a botanist who collected hundreds of specimens of New England plants to create his own herbarium.

Thoreau was first exposed to botany as a student at Concord Academy, where he was taught by Phineas Allen. Later Thoreau took classes at Harvard on natural history topics including botany, and began using books such as Flora Bostoniensis by Jacob Bigelow.

In 1842, Thoreau first began using Latin names for plants in his Journal. The arrival in 1846 of naturalist Louis Agassiz at Harvard, and the publication in 1848 of Asa Gray's Manual of Botany helped to encourage Thoreau's interest in botany. Thoreau's earliest herbarium specimens were collected in 1850. Over the next few years, he read many botanical works and increased his field observations. Thoreau continued to collect for his herbarium over the following years, until his collection grew to about 900 specimens.

Only about half of the specimens include the location where the specimen was collected, but most include a Latin plant name, usually written in a casual manner in pencil. He created his herbarium mainly as an way to determine the identity of plants found in Concord and other New England areas.

The Henry David Thoreau Herbarium Finding Aid
Container List

For more information on Thoreau click on Ray Angelo's Botanical Index to the Journal of Henry David Thoreau

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Last updated January 2011
Copyright 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College

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