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10 Largest Herbaria in The World

Updated on March 18, 2013

Herbarium Fern Image

A Herbarium Specimen of Goldie's Fern
A Herbarium Specimen of Goldie's Fern | Source

What is a Herbarium?

A herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens. The plants are usually dried and mounted on sheets of special paper or (newsprint or blotter paper are most often used), but in some cases may be stored in a preservative such as alcohol.

Herbarium can also refer to actual buildings or institutes where plant specimens are stored and/or researched. Many museums, botanical gardens and universities, for example, maintain specialized herbaria. These herbaria are used for cataloging and identifying flora, the study of plant taxonomy, and studying the geographic and historical distribution of plants in different regions.

Read About Herbaria

Emily Dickinson's Herbarium: A Facsimile Edition
Emily Dickinson's Herbarium: A Facsimile Edition

In a letter from 1845, the 14-year-old Emily Dickinson asked her friend Abiah Root if she had started collecting flowers and plants for a herbarium: "it would be such a treasure to you; 'most all the girls are making one." Emily's own album of more than 400 pressed flowers and plants, carefully preserved, has long been a treasure of Harvard's Houghton Library. This beautifully produced, slipcased volume now makes it available to all readers interested in the life and writings of Emily Dickinson.


Celebrated photographer Nick Knight gives us a new view of flowers and plants in this dazzling volume. Astounded by the beauty of the pressed flowers and plants he saw at the herbarium of the Natural History Museum in London, Knight spent three and a half years choosing from among the museum’s six million specimens. Having selected 46 as the most visually arresting, he captures them here with his camera in a book as fresh as the greatest works of botanical art and illustration.


Robyn Stacey, one of Australia's most famous photographers, opens the doors of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney herbaria, and the history of Australia's flora in this well-illustrated volume on the nature of collecting. Accompanied by essayist, Ashley Hay, this collection of photographs tells the stories of those who collected, and what and when they collected, as well as the scientific background of each of the specimens.

Herbarium Amoris: Floral Romance
Herbarium Amoris: Floral Romance

Swedish photographer Edvard Koinberg creates a modern visual counterpart to Linnaeus s work, approaching the subject with equal passion and dedication. Having cultivated several hundred plants in his country house, Koinberg photographs each delicate bloom in his studio under perfect lighting conditions, depicting the life cycle of various flora as they bud, flourish and wane, resulting in a modern Calendarium Florae, a visual calendar that charts the year through flowers.


Herbarium Cabinet Contents

Compositae specimens from the Namibian collection.
Compositae specimens from the Namibian collection. | Source

10 Largest Herbaria in the World

At present, the ten largest herbaria in the world are:

  • Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Paris, France)
  • New York Botanical Garden (Bronx, New York, USA)
  • Komarov Botanical Institute (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  • Royal Bonanic Gardens (Kew, England, UK)
  • Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Geneve (Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, Missouri, USA)
  • British Museum of Natural History (London, England, UK)
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
  • Swedish Museum of Natural History (Stockholm, Sweden)
  • United States National Herbarium (Washington, DC, USA)

History of the Herbarium at Kew Gardens

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