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21 Sep 2018

Herbarium: history, heart and hub of plant sciences

The name might throw you off but no, the National Herbarium of NSW isn't where we keep our finest coriander, mint and basil. Inside this 165-year-old building is a giant library of 1.43 million dried plant specimens, including over 800 collected by botanists on the first voyage of James Cook in 1770. And just like a library – these plants are constantly being ‘checked out’ for research.

What's inside the Herbarium? 

Most specimens are pressed, dried and preserved in 75,000 red boxes which line the corridors over four levels. As you explore this warehouse of information about plant biodiversity, you’ll be captivated by its remarkable history and function. These incredible samples act as prime reference materials for knowing where a species was in time and space and DNA can be extracted from them. Walk through the corridors of one of Australia’s largest reference collections of botanical specimens with Dr Shelley James and Dr Marco Duretto in our Branch Out podcast.

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Find out more

Dr Shelley James has also written two blog posts about the Herbarium if you want to go deeper into its science and history:  ‘What’s the NATIONAL Herbarium of NSW?’ and National Herbarium of NSW: This is Your Life!

You can also read about the $60 million win for NSW’s vital botanic sciences. This is an investment to relocate the Herbarium from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney to the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan. The Herbarium will join the Australian PlantBank and become part of a purpose built and state-of-the-art Centre of Innovation in Plant Sciences in Western Sydney.

Category: Science
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