The Herbarium at the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History (UC Santa Cruz) houses more than 13,500 vascular plants, algae, lichens, bryophytes, and fungi. The collection focuses primarily on native organisms from Santa Cruz County and the University of California Reserves but also contains important specimens from throughout California and occasionally those of interest from elsewhere around the world. The research collection archives research and publication voucher specimens, and the student collection serves as a university educational resource.

The notable collections within the UCSC Herbarium include those of:

  • R. Morgan (1969-2017)
  • Dylan M. Neubauer (collections of interest from throughout California, 2010- )
  • David Styer (Fort Ord National Monument collections, 2001- )
  • Neal Kramer (Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve collections, 1996- )
  • Ken Kellman (1995- )
  • Al Keuter (native California red oak collections, 2010- )
  • Bureau of Land Management collections from Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument (2017-2019)
The UCSC Herbarium documents flora, providing a continuous and permanent record of botanical diversity, especially in Santa Cruz County and elsewhere in California. This role is increasingly important as the rate of habitat destruction increases and climate change precipitates rapid changes in species’ ranges and diversity.

Herbarium collections are ever more important to our constantly changing understanding of plant taxonomy. Once totally based on morphological differences, plant taxonomy now, more and more, utilizes DNA analysis to dive deeper into understanding the relationships among plants. Although modern today, our current collections of common plants years from now will be historical specimens, extremely important sources of DNA for, future studies particularly, in the light of habitat fragmentation and loss, and climate change induced environmental changes.

Norris Center Resources 

The Norris Center is a member of the Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH). As part of the CCH, the Norris Center maintains an herbarium collection of over 8,000 fully cataloged vascular plant specimens, which can be searched online through the Jepson online interchange hosted at UC Berkeley. The collection focuses on Santa Cruz County plants, primarily collected by local naturalist Randall Morgan over the last 40 years. Morgan’s collecting especially concentrated on plants in rare habitats, such as coastal prairie, coastal dune, riparian, maritime chaparral, and sandhill chaparral. There are also extensive collections of the genera TrifoliumArctostaphylos, and Piperia. The museum has approximately 2,000 additional collected specimens waiting to be processed. With the help of volunteers and interns from UCSC, the Santa Cruz Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and the community, the Norris Center processes and catalogs a few hundred plant specimens per quarter.

plants of ucsc coverRecent Norris Center undergraduate Nathalie Martin published an excellent field guide to the plants of UCSC. Check it out on Amazon here, or come to the Norris Center for a discounted price.

Nectar By Night: Nectar Patterns of a Trioecious Bat-Pollinated Cactus in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Norris Center Student Award winner Rozy Bathrick studied how different sexes of the Cardón Cactus (Pachycereus pringlei) produce nector for bat pollinators. Rozy found that female flowers produce significantly more nectar than male or hermaphrodite flowers. She also found that, by experimentally removing nectar to simulate bat visitation, that earlier bats may get more nectar than later ones. 

Identification Guide to Native and Non-Native Grasses at Younger Lagoon

UCSC undergraduate Michael Baca designed a helpful key and field guide to the grasses of Younger Lagoon.

Do Serpentine Specialists Have Weakened Competitive Ability and Higher Stress-Tolerant Traits Than Serpentine Generalists?

Norris Center Student Award winner Nate Blackmore used greenhouse experiments to test how competitive ability, water use and root/shoot ratios differed between serpentine endemics and serpentine tolerator species that were in competition with eachother. Blackmore found that there was no difference in root/shoot ratios or competitive abilities, but that endemics had a lower water use efficiency when in the presence of competitors. 

A Guide to Common Vegetation of the UC Santa Cruz Farm

Norris Center Student Award winner Michael MacDonald made a field guide to the common non-crop plants of the UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

California Conifers: Conifer Communities of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Interpretive Signage for the UCSC Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Norris Center Student Award winner Erika (Rikki) Lougee summarizes the conifer communities and species of Santa Cruz County, and highlights her experience designing signs to help others understand confier diversity at the UCSC Arboretum.

Heteroanthery in Clarkia cylindrica

Norris Center Student Award winner Diana Tataru created this multi-day time lapse video of a Clarkia cylindrica blooming to show off its two types of anthers. While watching, pay attention to the comparative phenology of the yellow, inner anthers and the purple, outer anthers. 

Soil Carbon Content of Sequoia sempervirens Forest Habitat

Norris Center Student Award winner Lilianne de la Espriella studied how soil carbon content varies along the range of Coast Redwoods. She found that soil carbon decreased moving higher in latitude, with implications for climate change in the northerly range shifts of Coast Redwoods.

Restoring California's Grasslands

Norris Center-affiliated graduate student Justin Luong talks at Grad Slam about his work measuring success in grassland restoration. Justin covers how grassland restoration occurs, and how we can adapt practices under climate change.

General Natural History Links

Research Topics for the Scott Creek Watershed and Environs

Botanists James West and Dylan Neubauer compiled plant-focused projects of interest in the Scott Creek watershed for any enterprising students, researchers, or plant enthusiasts.


A website dedicated to the wild plant life of California; including both native plants and established invasives. Browse the database or submit your own observations.

California Native Plant Society

CNPS is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving California's native plant life. Get involved in citizen science, view the plant database, create your own native plant garden or join a chapter.

Botanical Society of America: Resources

Botany-related articles, blogs, videos, and information on botany careers. Also check out botany publications.

The Jepson Herbarium: eFlora

An online encyclopedia derived from the respected Jepson Manual. Identify a species via the keys using terms from the glossary, or view the profile for a known species.

Brilliant Botany

A botany enthusiast blog. Beautiful plant pictures; links to botany-related videos, books, and more.