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Mycologist Elias J. Durand was a student of the earliest Cornell mycologists, A.N. Prentiss, W.R. Dudley and G.F. Atkinson. In 1896, with a newly minted PhD, he became an instructor under Atkinson for 14 years. He later worked at Missouri University, then the University of Minnesota, where he was chairman of the department of botany from 1920-1921.

Durand was a world expert on cup fungi. Following his death in 1922, Cornell purchased his extensive personal specimen collection. Today his specimens comprise our special collection CUP-D. Durand described 21 new taxa, for which CUP holds 16 types, 27 paratypes and 2 syntypes. His collection also includes about 650 types from other herbaria or authors, making CUP-D a world center for discomycete taxonomy.

Photo: W. Fisher

Preserving the integrity of types: what's a kleptotype?

A herbarium's most important specimens are its types. They must be handled very carefully, since these finite samples of fungal material are expected to last forever. When type specimens are loaned, herbaria trust that scientists will use discretion, using only a tiny amount for examination using a microscope. Sometimes mycologists speak of kleptotypes — mostly in a humorous way because this is not a formal term — referring to fragments of type specimens kept without permission of the lending herbarium.

Some have insinuated that E.J. Durand's herbarium includes many discomycete kleptotypes. The presence of so many types makes Durand's collection one of the best single places in the world to study the taxonomy of cup fungi. However, the idea that Durand purloined type fragments from other herbaria has been put to rest through a careful examination of his correspondence. He routinely asked for and was granted permission to keep type fragments by his sources.

Today, few herbaria would grant such permission. We ask that borrowers return every bit of the types, including microscope slides made from type specimens, and even GenBank numbers for DNA sequences derived from our specimens.