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State Herbarium collections

The State Herbarium collection is a rich sample of the state's plant, algal and fungal biodiversity. It is used by botanists as their main source of data and information for documenting the flora of South Australia and, in conjunction with a global network of herbaria, that of Australia and the world. Our holdings of over one million preserved plant specimens come from all over the world.

Botanists at the State Herbarium carry out research, predominantly on Australian native flora, but also on plants that have become naturalised after introduction from overseas or across our state borders. The main international representation is from Mediterranean climatic regions, which supports the important role of weed taxonomic research and identification.

Botanists from interstate and overseas, ecologists, agriculturists, horticulturists and forensic scientists consult with our taxonomists and add to the collections.

Many specimens are added to the collection from scientific collecting trips. Exchange programs, with interstate and overseas herbaria, and voucher specimens are also significant sources of specimens. Voucher specimens for scientific studies are physical plant specimens on which species identifications have been based. They are vital to ensuring casual or scientific observations on plants keep up-to-date with changes to plant names as knowledge of the flora improves. Without them the quality of scientific and other research would be prone to decay over time.

The State Herbarium collection is housed in vaults in the Plant Biodiversity Centre. The vaults are specially constructed to reduce temperature extremes and insect attack and protected by a state-of-art, environmentally friendly Inergen gas fire-suppression system. The collection is valued at over $57 million.

Our holdings encompass pressed dried specimens, spirit, silica gel and microscope-slide collections. Our ever growing plant collection currently accommodates about 820,000 vascular plants, 15,000 ferns, 35,000 bryophytes, 90,000 algae, 25,000 fungi and 15,000 lichens. The collection also includes important historical collections from JM Black (terrestrial plants), JB Cleland (fungi and plants), HBS Womersley (southern Australian algae) and DG Catcheside (mosses), and some of the first specimens collected in the state by Robert Brown.

The marine botany collections (pressed, liquid-preserved, silica and slides) also represent an invaluable resource for biodiversity, biogeography, genetic and conservation research.

Since 1991 our collections have been databased, and collection records showing plant distribution can now be accessed online through eFlora SA and Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

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Collection and preservation of herbarium specimens