Library and Archives

Table of Contents

Library InfoOnline Searchable CatalogArchive InfoNew AcquisitionsProjectsLibrary HistoryAwardsLibrary NewsPolicies and ProtocolsHours and Contact Info


Library Image

Photograph by Eli Feldman

Library Information

A world-class botanical library, the RSABG Library specializes in systematic, floristic and evolutionary botany and the botany, horticulture, natural history and ethnobotany of California. It provides library support services for the staff and students of RSABG, members and volunteers of the organization, members of The Claremont Colleges and the general public.

Founder Susanna Bixby Bryant’s plan for her botanic garden included a research-quality library. She built a considerable personal collection in her lifetime and that collection continues to be the foundation of the library today. Some of her personal books can still be found in the library.

The library contains nearly 50,000 bound volumes and 750 current print and electronic journals and other periodicals related to the mission of RSABG. The collection is designed for education and research purposes and is geared towards graduate students and advanced researchers. It is composed of books, periodicals, reprints, microforms, pamphlets, article reprints and digital resources.

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Online Searchable Catalog

 The holdings of the library are included in the online catalog of The Claremont Colleges.

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Archive Info

The archive at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden houses 242 linear feet of institutional records, original manuscripts, botanical field notes, original botanical illustrations, glass slides, and photographs.  Notable collections include Susanna Bixby Bryant’s original Collection, the Clara Mason Fox Collection, the Marcus Jones Materials, and the Samuel Parish Collection.  The latter two were both local botanists in the late 19th century. 

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Archive Image



The collections are divided into two major sections: the general collection and special collections. The special collection includes rare books and archival materials, while the general collection includes volumes of monographs, periodicals and reference works.


Our Holdings Susanna Bixby Bryant Image



The archives houses 242 linear feet of institutional records, original manuscripts, botanical field notes, original botanical illustrations, glass slides, and photographs.


Susanna Bixby Bryant Collection: From the beginning, Susanna Bixby Bryant envisioned an extensive botanic collection.  Writing to Willis Linn Jepson for advice in late 1926, she declared, “The ambition I have for the native garden at Rancho Santa Ana is to make it the best and most complete botanical garden which we can develop for our California trees, shrubs and flowers.”  Jepson responded a few days later, “Of all the countries in the world, no other at the present time offers so much promise for a botanical garden as California.”  Currently, many of Mrs. Bryant's books, correspondence, and papers are housed in the archives, and will be available for researchers in the near future.

Our Holdings Marcus Jones Collection Image


Marcus Jones Materials: Among the most prominent botanists of the American West working from the late 19th century through to the early 20th century, Marcus Jones’ plant collections, writings, glass plate photographs and sundry other items of historical and botanical interest are held in the extensive herbarium and other archival collections at RSABG.


Samuel Parish Image

Samuel Parish Collection: Parish (1838-1928) was a noted amateur southern California botanist.  Although he had little formal training in botany, Parish developed an interest in the flora of the San Bernardino region which was relatively uncataloged at the time.  His plant collections (including many new species named for Parish) led to correspondence and collecting trips with noted botanists.

Parish's herbarium was sold to Stanford University in 1917 and his library was sold to Pomona College in 1920. Samuel and Eliza Parish moved to Berkeley at this point where Samuel was appointed Honorary Curator in the University Herbarium. Their house, as well as Parish's unpublished manuscripts and papers, was lost in the Berkeley fire of September 17, 1923.  His personal library collection is housed in special collections.

Clara Mason Fox: Ms. Fox was born in Ohio in 1873 and an Orange County until her death in 1959.  She found artistic inspiration in Silverado Canyon, Santiago Canyon and the Santa Ana Mountains.  Many of her impressive paintings of California flora have meticulous, technical descriptions of foliage density, height of shrubs and textures of fruits.  Ms. Fox’s botanical work represents the skill women could attain at a time when botanical exploration was generally considered men’s work.

fox works


Species Plantarum by Carl Linnaeus Image


 Special Collections

The special collections holds 2,200 rare herbals, historic scientific literature, and illustrated botanical books.

Lists every species of plant known at the time, classified into genera. It is the first work to consistently apply binomial names and was the starting point for the naming of plants. Species Plantarum by Carl Linnaeus, (1762): 


Current Periodicals: The library continually receives and stocks significant periodicals and publications from around the world.  These are all available to the public.

Our Holdings Current Periodicals Image

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New Acquisitions

The RSABG Library regularly acquires new resources that complement and enhance the collection. Whether we purchase material, receive gifts, donations or exchange with other botanical institutions, the RSABG collections continue to grow.

Flora of the Silk Road Image

Flora of the Silk Road

By Christopher Gardner and Basak Gardner


Chris and Basak Gardner offer a unique pictorial celebration of the plants and scenery to be found along its 5,000 miles. Embracing Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Central Asia and China, more than five hundred of the finest wild flowers are depicted together with the beautiful landscapes in which these botanical paradises are found. With an accompanying text giving descriptions of the species, plant families and their distribution, as well as information on photographing plants in the wild.

The Flora of Colorado Image

Flora of Colorado

By Jennifer Ackerfield

This book is a comprehensive guide to the vascular plants in Colorado, and contains descriptions, distribution maps, habitat information, flowering times, and elevation ranges for all species. Color photographs for nearly 1/3 of the species are also included. The aim of this guide is to enable students, researchers, amateur and professional botanists, or anyone interested in the flora of Colorado to successfully identify plants with confidence and satisfaction.

 Flora Illustrata Image  

Flora Illustrata

By Susan M Fraser and Vanessa Bezemer Sellers


The renowned LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden counts among its holdings many of the most beautiful and pioneering botanical and horticultural works ever created. More than eight centuries of knowledge, from the twelfth century to the present, are represented in the library’s collection of over one million items. In this sumptuously illustrated volume, international experts introduce us to some of the library’s most fascinating works—exceedingly rare books, stunning botanical artworks, and written manuscripts, Renaissance herbals, nursery catalogs, explorers’ notebooks, and more.

 Fathers of Botany Image Fathers of Botany

By Jane Kilpatrick

Drawing on their letters and contemporary accounts, Kilpatrick focuses on the lives of four great French missionary botanists, as well as a group of other French priests, Franciscan missionaries, and a single German Protestant pastor who all amassed significant plant collections, as she unearths a lost chapter of botanical history.

 The Invention of Nature  

The Invention of Nature:

By Andrea Wulf


The acclaimed author of Founding Gardeners reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humboldt, the visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world—and in the process created modern environmentalism.

California Channel Islands Image

California’s Channel Islands

By Frederic Caire Chiles


Prehistoric foragers, conquistadors, missionaries, adventurers, hunters, and rugged agriculturalists parade across the histories of these little-known islands on the horizon of twenty-first century Southern California. This chain of eight islands is home to a biodiversity unrivaled anywhere on Earth. In addition, the Channel Islands reveal the complex geology and the natural and human history of this part of the world, from the first human probing of the continent we now call North America to modern-day ranchers, vineyardists, yachtsmen, and backpackers.

Kern County Flora Image

Kern County Flora

By L. Maynard Moe

This guide contains identification keys based on the author's 30-year career, teaching California flora; as well as updated nomenclature and taxonomic treatments conforming to The Jepson Manual, Second Edition.

California Botanical Landscapes Image

California Botanical Landscapes

By Michael G. Barbour, Julie M. Evans, Todd Keeler-Wolf and John O. Sawyer


California’s Botanical Landscapes provides a vivid exploration of the Golden State’s native vegetation. Each chapter focuses on one of 14 ecoregions, illuminating their unique plant species and communities through a phenomenal array of photographs paired with in-depth, interpretive descriptions written by California’s top plant ecologists. This book serves to inspire, with beautiful, vibrant depictions of the landscape, and to enhance understanding of current vegetation patterns, as documented and standardized by A Manual of California Vegetation (CNPS 2009).

 Plants from the Woods and Forest of Chile Image Plants from the Woods and Forest of Chile

By Martin Gardner, Paulina Hechenleitner, and Josefina Hepp

An exclusive limited edition book of award-winning botanical illustrations, epitomizing the union of art and science.  Featuring 81 newly commissioned watercolor paintings in a single volume, the book is a work of great beauty which carries a strong conservation message about some of the most threatened forested habitats in the world.

The book depicts the stunning and rich plant diversity of Chile’s unique forest areas where, for the last 25 years, the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh has engaged in research and conservation programs. It is the first book published in English to be dedicated solely to Chilean plants.

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 Projects Image


  • Marcus Jones Website: With the help of Lisa Gluckstein, the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern at RSABG Summer 2011, turn-of-the-century photographs and archival documents from one of the leading botanists in the American West are getting the 21st-century treatment.
  • The California Golden Poppy Website: From watercolors that derive their beauty from their simplicity to detailed works dedicated solely to the appreciation of the flower, this website seeks to bring these often overlooked works of artistry out of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Library and Special Collections and back into the view of the general public. Website created by Shanti Penprase, the 2013 RSABG Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern.
  • Picturesque California Website: The year 1888 was a time of great activity in the printing world. Not only were there dozens of new printing techniques and unusual formatting techniques, but printing companies were clamoring to satisfy the public’s fascination with the West. Most of these efforts were relatively small-scale in the form of brochures and single prints. However in 1888, the J. Dewing Publishing Co. brought together these two emerging trends in a highly ambitious work. This work would be known as Picturesque California. Website created by Shanti Penprase, the 2013 RSABG Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern.

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Library History

Susanna Bixby Bryant established Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) in 1927. In setting aside 200 acres of her family’s Orange County ranch for the garden, Bixby Bryant provided a location for the research, study and appreciation of native California flora.

RSABG became an affiliated institution of The Claremont Colleges in 1951 when the Garden moved to its present location in Claremont, 35 miles east of Los Angeles. The Garden, an independent organization, became the home of Claremont Graduate University’s Botany Program.

As a research organization and institution of higher education, RSABG is involved with research in systematic and evolutionary botany (science fields that sort out the relationships and evolutionary history of plants).

Encouraging the use of California native plants in home landscapes is a major aspect of the Garden’s objective and to further this goal, we offer horticulture and community education programs to the public. The Garden’s grounds include many areas designed to illustrate the ways in which native plants can be used to achieve home garden and landscape design projects.

More than half of RSABG’s 86 acres is devoted to California plant communities—plantings designed to depict native plant habitats. The emphasis to display plants in their native habitats was established by Bixby Bryant in the early years of the Garden.

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NEH Logo Image

In 2015, the RSABG library was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities, Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions. This grant is dedicated to improving environmental conditions and care for the archives and special collections, allowing staff to purchase much needed supplies such as an environmental monitoring system, archival-quality shelving units, and archival supplies to protect materials in the Garden's special collections and archives. 

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Library News

Botanist Highlight:

Philip A. Munz Image


Philip Munz was born in Saratoga, Wyoming, but grew up mostly in Denver, where he entered university at the age of 17. After completing his MA, he took on graduate work in entomology at Cornell University under Professor Needham and wrote a doctoral thesis that dealt with wing venation of Zygoptera. Despite his having only minored in botany, Pomona College in southern California offered him an assistant professorship in the subject, not only to teach botany but to be, in fact, the entire Botany Department. Arriving in Claremont in August 1917, he set about to learn the flora of the area as rapidly as possible, aided by an eager sophomore, Ivan Johnston. He also began the Pomona College Herbarium, engaged in field work, and started research on Onagraceae, and other prominent plant groups of the region.

In 1926 he advanced to full professor. His knowledge of the southern California flora built gradually into A Manual of Southern California Botany (1935).  While at Pomona, he acquired the Marcus E. Jones collection for the herbarium and was involved in conservation projects, such as the Joshua Tree National Monument.

Although he was named Dean of the Faculty in 1942, he had no desire to advance into administrative posts, being at his happiest when teaching and studying botany. In 1944 he returned to Cornell as a professor of botany, fully expecting to remain there until his retirement. However, when Susanna Bixby Bryant died in 1946, he readily accepted an offer from the board of trustees of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to succeed her as director. It was under his directorship that the Garden was moved to its current site in Claremont, California, and that the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Pomona College herbaria and botanical libraries were amalgamated there in one building. Throughout this period Munz was working with his former student David Keck, then at the New York Botanical Garden, on A California Flora (1959), which appeared shortly before his retirement in 1960.





Munz's Field Notebook (1928) "Trip from Idyllwild to Santa Rosa Mts." From RSABG Special Collection






As Director Emeritus, he remained busy. In addition to accumulating materials for a Supplement to the California Flora, published in 1968, he produced monographs on Onagraceae and Delphinium and began a new flora of Southern California, which was completed and published shortly before his death. Plants that have been named after him include Cereus munzii Parish (= Echinocereus munzii(Parish) L.D. Benson), Iris munzii R.C. Foster, Layia munzii D.D. Keck, Opuntia munzii C.B. Wolf and the genus Munzothamnus P.H. Raven. (Asteraceae).

Munz Letter Image

 - Excerpted from S. Carlquist, 1974, "Philip A. Munz, Botanist and Friend", Aliso, 8(3)


Dr. L.R. Abrams writing to Philip A. Munz, 1922.

“The chief problem in publishing a flora of such a limited area is finance.  I doubt if we can publish it so as to sell at a price within the reach of students.  It would cost but little more to publish a flora of Southern California.”

“One of my students is carrying on some cultural studies of the eschscholzia.  Would it be possible for you to send us a dozen or more living specimens of the common annual species?”

- Both quotes are from a March 8th, 1922 letter to Munz from Dr. L. R. Abrams

Photographed by Eli Feldman


 Volunteer Highlight:

Terry Givens Image

Terry Givens is a RSABG library volunteer.  He started volunteering at RSABG after retiring from teaching art for over 30 years locally in Sam Dimas, and 10 years in Sacramento in the State Department of Education. When Terry toured the library as part of the RSABG's Volunteer Orientation class, he was inspired by a collection of illustrations titled “Les Roses” by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. This exquisite tome showcases many roses grown in the gardens of Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife, Joséphine.  After seeing this rare, beautiful book he decided to volunteer specifically in the Library.

One of Terry’s first major projects was to work with the Samuel A. Parish collection, identifying all the botanical articles within the more than 500 books, including researching each article’s origin.  The project took about three years to complete.

Since then he has become very familiar with many of the Library and Archives gems, including many interesting botanical illustrations.  Some of his favorites include the work of Clara Mason Fox, Milford Zornes, and Los Angeles-based commercial photographer Lustin A. Martindale.

Currently, Terry is researching/preparing a series of cactus prints for cataloguing and adding to the archive.  His artwork (a drawing of a new sculpture addition to the gardens), was also recently featured in RSABG’s summer 2016 newsletter, “Garden Variety”.  Past issues can be seen here - 

  • Intern News – Both short and long-term interns work with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden on varied projects, from databasing journals and periodicals to website design.
  • Occasionally the library will have books for sale – reasonably priced!  You may also find additional sales on our Amazon Storefront:


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Policies and Protocol

Please read before visiting the Library and Archives.

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Hours and Contact Info

Appointments are recommended at least one day in advance.

Monday through Friday 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

Staff: Irene Holiman
Phone: (909) 625-8767, ext. 210

Council Logo ImageLibrary Specialist Irene Holiman is also a member of The Council on Horticultural and Botanical Libraries (CBHL). 

The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, Inc. (CBHL) is an international organization of individuals, organizations and institutions concerned with the development, maintenance and use of libraries of botanical and horticultural literature.

The purpose of CBHL is to initiate and improve communication and coordinate activities and programs of mutual interest and benefit to its membership.


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