Specimen database

The RHS Herbarium’s 92,000+ plant specimens, dating as far back as 1731, are housed at RHS Garden Wisley and can be browsed online via our Digital Collections

While keen gardeners previously had to travel to RHS Garden Wisley to view the preserved plants, anyone can now browse the Herbarium collection on the RHS website.

The opening-up of the Herbarium through RHS Digital Collections helps to support conservation work and ensures an exciting future for plant diversity in UK gardens, in addition to being a useful tool to help fellow horticulturists navigate the fascinating history of garden plants.

The team began the ambitious imaging project in 2011 and in the process have rediscovered inspiring specimens, including a potato collected by Charles Darwin, and 24 specimens made by John Sibthorp from the Levant. The latter collections were illustrated by Ferdinand Bauer in Flora Graeca, the most expensive botanical work produced.

With the help of the Mellon Foundation and The 1851 Royal Commission, the RHS employed a full-time digitiser, Mandeep Matharu, who started with a flat-bed scanner to image our collection. 

After completing the types and standards, available both here and online via JSTOR Global Plants, the RHS supported the Herbarium to continue digitising the entire collection. With the support of a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant and a high resolution camera, Mandeep imaged the final specimen of our original collection in 2018 and continues, along with a team of digitisers, to image our collection as it grows.

Mandeep Matharu, RHS Herbarium Digitiser

About the database

The specimen data are captured using BRAHMS, and are part of the same RHS Horticultural Database that maintains the living collections and RHS Plant Finder. This ensures that the names used for the taxa are those currently accepted by the RHS Plant Finder and that the names of garden collections and the specimens made from them are in agreement.

The specimen database for RHS Herbarium consists of:

  • Herbarium specimens: 92,000+

  • Photographs (slides and prints): 44,950

  • Paintings: 4,207

  • Taxa: 52,000+

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.