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Building a new Herbarium

As Australia’s oldest scientific institution, we have spent over 200 years discovering, researching and protecting plants. In this challenging new era of climate change, it is imperative now more than ever, that we understand the impacts to our natural environment and drive effective conservation solutions. 

Purpose and vision

We're building a brand new National Herbarium of NSW at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan to safeguard our growing collection of over 1.4 million botanical specimens. The new state-of-the-art Herbarium facility will join the award-winning Australian PlantBank at Mount Annan, to ensure the survival of plants and build more resilient ecosystems for future generations.

The new Herbarium along with all of the Garden's scientific facilities, programs and living collections at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Australian Botanic Garden and Blue Mountains Botanic Garden are also being united under the new Australian Institute of Botanical Science.

The Institute will be one of the nation’s premier botanical research organisations, advancing fundamental knowledge of flora and driving effective conservation solutions to ensure the survival of plants, and all life that depends on them. 

The collections of the National Herbarium of New South Wales date from 1770, made by botanists Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on Captain James Cook's first voyage to the Pacific. By 1900, the Herbarium contained 15,000 named species – almost all the species then known in NSW.

The Herbarium has been located within the Robert Brown Building at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney since it was constructed in 1982, with little to no change to the facility or the operations since that time. The building has declining environmental controls placing the growing collection of over 1.4 million botanical specimens at risk from mould and insect infestations. 

The Herbarium collection has recently been valued at over $289 million. With over 8000 new specimens being added to the collection every year, the Herbarium's storage capacity in the Robert Brown Building will also be exhausted by 2022. It is time critical that we create a new facility to fix these deficiencies and ensure our collection can grow and be utilised by other Herbaria around the world.
The new Herbarium design is being created by leading Australian architectural firm, Architectus with Richard Leplastrier and Craig Burton, in conjunction with FDC Construction & Fitout. A key feature of the new Herbarium is six protective vaults made of thermal mass materials to shield the collection from bushfires and extreme temperature events. More design concepts for the new Herbarium will be finalised and released to the public in the lead up to construction.

A significant first-step to move the Herbarium is the digitisation of the herbarium collection which began on 30 April, 2019 at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. This is the largest herbarium imaging project in the southern hemisphere where over 1.4 million specimens will become high-resolution digital images. 
The construction project will begin with the upgrade of the Nursery at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, the first time in the Garden’s 30-year history. Construction of the new Nursery is due to commence in March 2020 and is expected to be completed by July 2020, allowing for construction of the new Herbarium to begin. Construction of the new Herbarium is expected to be completed by late 2021.

Maintaining Australia’s largest botanic garden is a huge job and thousands of plants are planted at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan every year that are grown in the Nursery. Plant nurseries are fundamental to the operation of botanic gardens with the propagation of plants key to growing plants to display, conserve and protect. 

The new Nursery will provide the same functionality as our existing production spaces with significant modernisation of our infrastructure. There will be approximately 6,400m2 of production space with a durable concrete surface improving plant hygiene and maintenance outcomes.

The first stage of the Nursery upgrade will provide significantly improved plant production infrastructure, particularly for threatened species cultivation. Industry best practice irrigation and nursery structures will also lead to improved plant growth and ultimately plant conservation outcomes.

Vegetation surrounding Angophora Avenue to the west of the Australian PlantBank at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan will be removed to create vital space for the new Nursery and ensure as much sunlight reaches the growing environment for healthy plant production.
The vegetation is predominantly Corymbia maculata and Eucalyptus sideroxylon, which was planted since the establishment of the Garden in 1986. The removal of this vegetation will cause some areas to look sparse until they can be replanted after the new Herbarium construction works are complete late 2021. The Garden's passionate Horticulture team are working on developing new landscaping designs for the area. 

Clearly marked signage and temporary fencing will be used and visitors are encouraged to be alert in the area. There will be no impact to footpaths, however, visitors may need to follow temporary traffic arrangements.

Hours of operation: Between 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturday. No construction work will take place on Sundays or Public Holidays. 
Contractor parking: Contractors will park in a temporary carpark between Mount Annan Drive and Angophora Avenue. 

Further information: If you have any questions regarding this project, please contact us via
The NSW Government is funding the construction of the new Herbarium with a $60 million package as part of the Western Sydney City Deal. This is a partnership between the Australian Government, NSW Government, and local governments.

Your valued support also helps our scientists and horticulturalists work on on real solutions to ensure our plant life can withstand a changing climate. Donate today to protect our plants and our future here. 

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust is excited to announce this opportunity for a new public artwork for the National Herbarium of New South Wales.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Sydney-based artists or artist groups who have strong connections to Dharawal Country and/or the Dharawal community. The selected artist will develop their concept in close collaboration with the local community and with the Trust’s science, horticulture and education teams. The finished artwork design will be sandblasted into the concrete flooring surface of the Herbarium’s eastern terrace in late 2022. The artist will be paid a fee of $25,000.

Apply now
Aerial view of the current site and its facilities at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan.
Aerial visulisation of the new National Herbarium of NSW, Nursery and existing Australian PlantBank at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan. 
Front visualisation of the outside of the new National Herbarium of NSW at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan. 
Close up visulisation of the outside of the new National Herbarium of NSW at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan.