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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 $40 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 herbarium collection, recently valued at $280 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: As of January 2019, the National Herbarium of New South Wales is closed to visitors and requests for loans, images, and destructive sampling. 
Beginning April 2019, digitization of the botanical collections will commence, resulting in the generation of 1.4 million specimen images and metadata which will be made available online during the closure of the Herbarium. The National Herbarium of NSW is partnering with Picturae in this exciting project to unlock the collections.

Learn more about the National Herbarium of New South Wales through our stories: The National Herbarium of NSW is a member of the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH).