No other charity invests so much as the RHS in the scientific study of horticulture. Our work creates greater knowledge of cultivated plant diversity in the UK, and we share our research findings as widely as possible, offering gardeners practical solutions to cope with our rapidly changing world.

Help the RHS Herbarium grow

Our herbarium is an irreplaceable repository of plant specimens, illustrations and historical data. Help us create its new home.

The RHS Herbarium is one of only a very few in the world to specialise in cultivated plants. It holds more than 86,000 dried specimens from the UK and overseas, including many donated by breeders, nurseries and RHS members. It is a unique record of the development of ornamental plants and  a vital resource for research.

The herbarium is currently housed in the original Laboratory building at RHS Garden Wisley, dating from 1916, which was not built with the technical conservation needs of our current science collections in mind. It is immensely valuable to horticulture today and will become increasingly so in the future.

Camellia ‘St Ewe’ - click to enlargeAfter 100 years, the herbarium has outgrown its current quarters. We need to move. We also want to take the opportunity to implement much-needed environmental controls, so that we can ensure that our collection is available to researchers for the next 100 years, and beyond.

The new RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science (see below) will deliver this, enabling us to increase the capacity to store over a quarter of a million specimens.

This will support our target to build a comprehensive collection of all UK ornamental plants in the next 20 years. We currently have less than 10% of the UK’s cultivated plants in our herbarium.

A Herbarium for the 21st century

The new herbarium will provide the essential controlled environmental conditions to preserve and expand our nationally important collection, where specimens will be processed, prepared, catalogued and researched.

We are committed to opening up its collections to users, mainly through making available images of the specimens. The process of digitisation will be completed before the collection is moved to the new building. The aim is to provide an online resource for the identification, naming and study of garden plants.

The information will help to solve problems for the researchers of the future and the specimens themselves could be used in morphological and DNA investigations.

In addition to the herbarium, the RHS has other important collections and resources, including insect specimens (23,000), cultures of plant pathogens, plants in our gardens, our plant registration and horticultural databases with more than five million records.

This global knowledge bank helps us to:

  • Improve identification to enable better plant cultivation and conservation
  • Promote plant selection and breeding for environmental and health and wellbeing benefits
  • Inform effective management strategies for invasive plants

Find out more about our plans for the future of RHS Garden Wisley 

Become a Herbarium Box Sponsor 

Herbarium Box to hold unique specimensWhen the RHS Herbarium moves into its new home in RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science, the specimens will be housed in new heritage archival boxes lined with acid free paper, which will ensure they are stored in the best conditions possible.

By sponsoring a Herbarium Box for £300, you’ll ensure this unique collection is available for future generations to learn from and enjoy. 


The Wisley appeal 

We appreciate all your gifts to help us create RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science. Every donor to the Wisley Appeal will be updated throughout the build and invited on a tour of RHS Hilltop. As well as becoming a Herbarium Box Sponsor we have the following giving levels to thank you for your support:

Willow £1,000

You and a guest will be invited to the reception to celebrate the opening. Your name will appear on the donor recognition board.


Birch £5,000

You and a guest will be invited to the reception to celebrate the opening along with other special events. Your name will appear on the donor recognition board.


Thank you for supporting the Wisley Appeal and helping to build a greener future.

Please call us on 0207 821 3125 or email us to request full details of these additional levels: Mulberry £10,000; Chestnut £25,000 and Oak £50,000.

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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.