In 1954 the State Herbarium of South Australia was founded as part of the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The collections reflect the history of activity by the state's resident botanists since the first flora of the state was produced by Richard Schomburgk (1811-1891) in 1875.
The State Herbarium's foundation collections include the personal collections of R Tate (1840-1901), JM Black (1855-1951) assembled in the University of Adelaide Herbarium (ADU), Sir JB Cleland (1878-1971) via the South Australian Museum, the moss herbarium of Professor David Catcheside (1907-1994), the collections of the Field Naturalists' Society of South Australia and many others.
An early focus by staff and members of the public was on botanical surveys of South Australia. Collections were gifted from the Waite Agricultural Research Institute (ADW), the algal herbarium of the University of Adelaide (now the AD-A series), the Department of Agriculture (ADA) and the SA Pastoral Board.
Today the term herbarium has been extended to encompass an institution that not only holds botanical collections but also employs taxonomic botanists who use these collections to study and document the regional, national and global floras.
The State Herbarium was first established within the old administration building of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. In 1966, a new custom-built building opened beside its original home. Later expansion of collections and staff were accommodated with two building extensions. This old site then made way for the National Wine Centre in 2000.
The State Herbarium and the library of the Botanic Gardens are now housed in the old Tram Barn A, which was renamed the Plant Biodiversity Centre in 2000. The State Herbarium shares this accommodation with the Biological Survey of South Australia and other scientific groups. They were amalgamated into the department's Science Resource Centre in 2009.
The traditional link of the State Herbarium with the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide, embodied in the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium Act 1978, has been maintained over the years but the shift of location has coincided with the cementing of closer ties with wider scientific and conservation programs in South Australia and nation-wide.