Most herbaria are concerned primarily with wild plants - either from the local flora or collected from various parts of the world. In the RHS Herbarium the emphasis is on ornamental garden plants.

Although a relatively recent herbarium, compared with the ones at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew or Natural History Museum, the RHS Herbarium – situated at RHS Garden Wisley - is the largest herbarium dedicated to ornamental plants in the UK.

RHS Herbarium timeline

1856: The original herbarium of the Royal Horticultural Society was auctioned to help relieve the Society’s debts.

approx 1917: Gathering of specimens for the current herbarium began, when collections began to be made from the garden at Wisley.

1936: Frederick Hanbury donated his European herbarium (approx 12,000 specimens).

1960: Chris Brickell took charge and started to co-ordinate efforts to collect and expand the herbarium.

1967: Diana Miller joined as Assistant Botanist and later became Keeper of the Herbarium in 1979 before retiring in September 2005.

1985: Building of new cupboards allowed the herbarium to grow more rapidly to its current size.

2002: New herbarium cupboards installed

The oldest specimen in the herbarium is a lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) collected in 1731. This was donated by Rev George Henslow, RHS Professor of Botany between 1880 and 1918, along with the rest of his herbarium. The earliest collections in the herbarium recorded from Wisley itself are of Berberis in 1917.


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