Iowa Conservationists: Ada Hayden

Posted on June 10, 2016 in Blog

Ada HaydenAda Hayden (1884-1950) was a strong woman with strong opinions—especially when it came to protecting Iowa's native prairies.

Ada grew up in rural Ames and, in 1918, became the first woman to receive a doctorate degree from Iowa State College (now Iowa State University). She soon joined the university's faculty (botany department) and later served as long-time curator of the state's herbarium.

Meanwhile, Ada conducted research on Iowa's vanishing prairies—and soon became a public advocate for preserving them. She has been decribed as brusque, eccentric, diversely talented and fearless.

Thanks to her legacy, many Iowa prairies are now permanently protected, including a prairie that bears her name.

Ada Hayden Herbarium

The Ada Hayden Herbarium, located at Iowa State University, is a museum of dried and pressed plants and fungi. Containing more than 600,000 specimens, it is the largest botanical collection in Iowa.

It is also a research facility, serving as a resource for taxonomic studies (relationships of species and higher groups, and their occurrence and distribution), for identifying unknown samples and for determining ecological and other information about plants and fungi. It has become a source of materials for use in molecular studies and helps support basic research on biodiversity. The Ada Hayden Herbarium is part of a worldwide network of herbaria, participating in the loan and exchange of specimens for support of research here and around the world.

In 1988 the Herbarium was named in honor of Dr. Ada Hayden, who was its curator from 1934 to 1950. The addition of thousands of her own carefully prepared specimens and her care for the collections as a whole contributed greatly to the international prominence that the Ada Hayden Herbarium enjoys today.



To learn much more about Ada Hayden's life and accomplishments, check out these links for more information about one of Iowa's most famous prairie protectors: 

History of Iowa State: People of Distinction
Iowa State Biography
"Ada Hayden: Champion Iowa's Prairies" by Deb Lewis

Information about Hayden Prairie in Howard County: 

Howard CCB Information
Iowa DNR Map and Directions

Other publications:

SELY, D. 1989. Ada Hayden: A tribute. Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science 96:1-5.

LEWIS, D. 2001. Ada Hayden, champion of Iowa prairies. Proceedings of the Seventeenth North American Prairie Conference: seeds for the future, roots of the past, pp. 215-219.

LOVELL, J. 1987. She fought to save Iowa's prairies. The Iowan 36(2):22-27, 56-57.