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National Herbarium of New South Wales

The National Herbarium of New South Wales (NSW) is one of Australia’s largest reference collections of botanical specimens. It is used to study the classification, ecology, and evolution of plants in NSW, Australia and the Pacific, providing a record of plant distributions through time and space.

With its beginnings in 1853 when the then Director of the Gardens, Charles Moore, made a modest collection of approximately 1,800 native specimens, the Herbarium has continued to expand its collection and today houses over 1.43 million specimens.

As one of the most significant botanical resources in the Southern Hemisphere, the collectons include:

  • Over 20,000 type specimens – the specimens that give the name to new plant species.
  • 25,000 Australian vascular plant species, including the 6,000 occurring in New South Wales, as well as representative specimens from other parts of the world. 
  • Many specimens from Australia’s early explorers, including those collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander in 1770 on Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific. 
  • Internationally significant collections of plant specimens including algae, bryophytes, cycads and the flowering plant families Asteraceae, Casuarinaceae, Cyperaceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Myrtaceae, Orchidaceae, Poaceae and Restionaceae.

This vast collection of specimens and data they contain is a key resource for local and international botanical researchers. The collection is essential for informing and making decisions about the conservation and management of our natural environment and comprise a continuing and vital part of our scientific heritage.

Our collections data are available through The Australasian Virtual Herbarium, and Type specimens via JSTOR Global Plants. In collaboration with the Papua New Guinea National Herbarium (LAE), the Plants of Papua New Guinea Project and the PNGplants Database are also available online.

In June 2018, the NSW Government  announced a $60 million investment for a new facility, the Centre of Innovation in Plant Sciences, which will house the more than 1.4 million item botanical collection of the National Herbarium of New South Wales (NSW).
 
This project will see a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility created to protect our nationally and internationally significant collection, recently valued at $200 million. You can read more about the project on our blog here.
 
The new facility is to be based in Western Sydney at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan next to our PlantBank facility.
 
The preparation and relocation of the collections to the new facility will have a substantial impact on the operations of the Herbarium until the end of 2021. 
 
Please note the following dates:
  • Access to the Herbarium collections, including the actioning of loan requests and visitors, will be restricted beginning January 2019.
  • Visitors will not be able to be accommodated from July 1, 2019.
  • Requests for loans, images, and destructive sampling after July 2019 will not be actioned and we recommend you resubmit your request early in 2022.
 It is likely that the preparation of the collection will potentially include the complete digitization of the botanical collections which may be made available online during the closure of the Herbarium.

Learn more about the National Herbarium of New South Wales through our stories:

The Herbarium’s main research collection is open to researchers by prior appointment only.

Please note: Access to the NSW collections will be restricted beginning January 2019. Visitors will not be able to be accommodated from July 2019.

To arrange an appointment please contact:

Manager Collections, Shelley James
National Herbarium of New South Wales
herbarium.nsw@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au 
(02) 9231 8013

Public Reference Collection 

This collection is available for people looking to identify their own plant collections. To access this collection please contact the Botanical Information Service (botanical.is [at] rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au).

Tours of the National Herbarium of New South Wales and the Daniel Solander Library

Public tours are regularly scheduled for the Herbarium and Library. Please see the What's On page for dates and booking information.
Tours for special interest groups may be requested (maximum 15 people per tour). For more information, please contact:

Manager Collections, Shelley James
National Herbarium of New South Wales
herbarium.nsw@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au
(02) 9231 8013

For education group tours, please contact:
School Booking Officer
(02) 9231 8111

The National Herbarium of New South Wales (NSW) is part of an international network institutions sharing plant specimens as loans and exchange.

Herbarium Loans

Researcher’s wishing to loan specimens from NSW must abide by the Herbarium’s Conditions of Loan. Destructive sampling of specimens may be requested; please refer to our Destructive Sampling Policy.

Please note: Access to the NSW collections, including the actioning of loan requests, will be restricted beginning January 2019
Requests for loans, images, and destructive sampling after July 2019 will not be actioned and we recommend you resubmit your request early in 2022.

All requests for loan material must be made in writing, electronically or by mail, by the Head of the borrowing institution and addressed to:

Manager Collections
National Herbarium of New South Wales
Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands
Mrs Macquaries Road
Sydney NSW 2000
AUSTRALIA

Specimen Exchange

Most herbaria in the world and within Australia have a longstanding tradition of exchanging herbarium specimens for the purpose of a broader diversity of species and increased accessibility of specimens for scientific research. Duplicate materials are donated to other institutions throughout the world and in return, NSW receives about 10,000 exchange specimens annually from these institutions. 

Herbarium label information for exchange specimens from NSW can be sent electronically to the receiving organisation in HISPID (Herbarium Information Standards and Protocols for Interchange of Data) format. We encourage, and appreciate, the full transfer of electronic data with herbarium collections being donated to NSW.

Regulations governing herbarium loans and exchange

The loan and exchange of specimens or samples of Australian species can only occur between registered scientific institutions. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and Australian Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 strictly control the movement of specimens and parts of specimens of some taxa. 

Strict quarantine regulations apply to the importation of herbarium specimens into Australia. Institutions wishing to send material to NSW must first contact the Manager Collections for information on quarantine requirements, and consult BICON, the Australian Biosecurity Import Conditions database, for further details. International shipping guidelines can be found here.

Herbarium specimens of most plants can be preserved as permanent reference material by careful pressing and drying followed by storage in dry, insect-free conditions. Although lacking the freshness and colour of live material, well-collected and prepared specimens with field notes usually provide most of the features needed for identification and systematic research. 

For information on the collection, preparation and preservation of plant specimens please read the chapter on ‘How to Collect Plants’.

Type specimens
A type specimen is a preserved specimen selected to serve as a permanent reference point for a scientific plant name. Type specimens are vitally important to botanists in determining the correct application of botanical names. There are a number of different categories of types recognised under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (the ICBN): 
Holotype: The single specimen designated as the type of a species by the original author at the time the species name and description was published.
Isotype: A duplicate specimen of the holotype.
Syntype: Any of two or more specimens listed in the original description of a taxon when a holotype was not designated. Isosyntypes are duplicates of a syntype.
Lectotype: A specimen chosen by a later researcher to serve as the primary type. It is chosen from among the specimens available to the original author of a name when the holotype was either lost or destroyed, or when no holotype was designated. Isolectotypes are duplicates of a lectotype.
Neotype: A specimen chosen by a later researcher to serve in place of a holotype when all specimens available to the original author of a name have been lost or destroyed. Isoneotypes are duplicates of a neotype.

NOTE
Collections must not be made in national or state parks or nature reserves, nor of protected plant species unless a permit has been obtained from the appropriate authority (in NSW it is the Director-General, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service). Such permits are generally only given for collections made in the course of scientific studies.

For information on identifying plant specimens please see Plant Information and Plant Identification Service.

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