3.2.1 Management and curation


The major role of the Herbarium is to provide scientific authentication for the living collections and research programs and to provide reliable identifications for these programs and other clients. More than a quarter of a million specimens are represented in the Herbarium, and approximately one-third of them are non-vascular plants. Table 3.1 summarises Herbarium holdings. The most common components are the dried specimens, either mounted on a herbarium sheet or in packets or boxes. A particular specimen may have associated with it one or more other components: there may be flowers or other delicate parts preserved in spirit, wood samples, bark samples, large detached fruit, pollen samples, anatomical material, floral dissections on separate cards, photographs of the habitat, habit, flowers or fruit, or images of the specimen itself. These components all refer to the same collecting event and carry the relevant information with them. The information management system is designed to keep track of all these components and provide the means whereby the names can be updated if a voucher is re-identified.

Table 3.1 Herbarium collection, June 1993
     Plant type       Type specimens    Total specimens

     Vascular plants
          Pteridophytes           16              5 000
          Gymnosperms             10              1 000
          Monocotyledons         116             12 000
          Dicotyledons           273            129 000
          Unincorporated                         10 000
           Mosses                 55             51 000
           Liverworts             67             22 500
           Lichens               196             32 200
           Fungi                   4              3 000
           Algae                                    400
           Unincorporated                         6 000
     Total                       737            272 000
Note: A `type specimen' is the original specimen to which a scientific name is applied at the time of publication. It is the permanent archival standard for a scientific name.
A significant feature of the maintenance of a preserved scientific collection is secure storage in perpetuity of the specimens and materials. The materials used in the preparation of specimens at the Gardens are of archival quality; that is, they are designed to last for many centuries without physical or chemical breakdown. The buildings are secure, protected against fire, and have controlled environments, and specimens brought into the buildings are subject to quarantine and decontamination procedures.

In the past Herbarium and living collections material was accessioned separately, with manual links maintained between the two systems. Since 1977 there has been a policy of treating all accessions as a single item with a single accession number; various components (living, Herbarium, spirit, photograph, and so on) are linked by this single accession number. The Integrated Botanical Information System (IBIS) database links all the accession components and makes this information available for research and management purposes.

To augment the representation of the collections and to provide material for research, field work has been undertaken to collect important or under-represented taxonomic groups or taxa from under-represented geographic areas, and duplicate specimens are exchanged with other botanical institutions.

Management prescriptions


The objectives are to maintain to the highest curatorial standards and to further develop a taxonomically and geographically representative scientific collection of preserved samples of Australian and related floras.


The single herbarium collection to be created as part of the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research will have a much broader representation of the Australian flora, both taxonomically and geographically, than the present Gardens' collection.

The Gardens will continue to maintain high curatorial standards for the specimens in its care. The specimens will be stored and handled according to modern standards of herbarium curatorial practice. The identity of specimens will be kept as current as possible, according to the latest accepted taxonomic revisions. The associated collections of spirit material, wood samples, floral dissections and other collection components will continue to be maintained to the same standards as the main collection.

Specimen acquisition will occur through collection by staff members and through donations and exchanges from other institutions and individuals. An active field collection program will continue to collect taxa under-represented in the collection, taxa of research interest, and taxa from areas that are poorly known botanically. Collecting permits will be obtained from the authorities concerned and reports on collecting activities will be provided to those authorities.

The focus of the collection will continue to be Australian and related floras, and it will continue to concentrate on both vascular and non-vascular plants.

The database will be populated and maintained to reflect the Gardens' holdings of all associated material, the location of the items and their status.