Welcome to Kew's Herbarium Blog

By: Emma Tredwell - 16/12/2010

Find out about the work of scientists in Kew’s Herbarium, including their expeditions to study plant and fungal life around the world.

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The word ‘herbarium’ may conjure up an image of a Victorian glasshouse containing neat rows of culinary herbs, but in fact refers to a collection of preserved plant specimens. The earliest versions of these were often in the form of bound books, although today the accepted best practice is to prepare individual specimens.

Kew’s Herbarium is a collection of over eight million preserved plant specimens. Most of these are pressed and dried and carefully filed away in purpose-built cabinets. The Herbarium also houses a number of ancillary collections, including the spirit collection, carpological collection and illustration collections. Herbarium staff also care for the world’s largest fungarium – consisting of around 1.25 million specimens of dried fungi, stored in archival boxes in the nearby Jodrell Laboratory.

Wing C of Kew's Herbarium

 Wing C of Kew's Herbarium (Image: RBG Kew)

Herbarium scientists not only care for these collections, but also assist visitors from around the world who come to study them. They also carry out fieldwork around the world, working with partners overseas, and often bringing back additional specimens for the collections. The information contained within the Herbarium underpins all plant conservation work, and work is underway to make it available to a much wider audience, for example through projects involved in the digitisation of plant specimens, and their addition to the on-line Herbarium Catalogue.

 Digitising herbarium specimens

Digitising herbarium specimens (Image: RBG Kew)

Kew’s Herbarium blog will provide updates on the work carried out here at Kew and on expeditions around the world - we hope you enjoy learning more about our work.

- Emma -


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