Skip to content

National Herbarium
of New South Wales

The National Herbarium of New South Wales is one of the most significant botanical resources in the Southern Hemisphere and houses over 1.43 million plant specimens. The growing collection is essential for informing and making decisions about the conservation and management of our natural environment.

Relocation and digitisation

The Herbarium collection has recently been valued at $280 million so it is imperative we have a facility that protects and safeguards the specimens for future generations.

From January 2019 the National Herbarium of NSW is closed while its growing collection of plant specimens is relocated from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney to a new purpose-built facility at Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan. While construction for the world-class innovation hub is underway, the 1.43 million herbarium plant specimens will also be transformed into high-resolution digital images.

Find out more

Herbarium specimen loans & exchanges

The National Herbarium of New South Wales (NSW) is part of an international network of institutions sharing plant specimens. In preparation of moving and digitising over 1.43 million specimens, access to the National Herbarium of NSW and its collections is closed to visitors and researchers until 2020.

In preparation of moving and digitising over 1.43 million specimens, access to the National Herbarium of NSW and its collections is closed to visitors and researchers until 2020.

Researcher’s wishing to loan specimens from NSW must abide by the Herbarium’s Conditions of Loan. Destructive sampling of specimens may be requested; please refer to our Destructive Sampling Policy.

The National Herbarium of NSW is prioritizing the return of specimens made available to NSW on loan to their home institutions. All requests for loan material must be made in writing, electronically or by mail, by the Head of the borrowing institution and addressed to:

Manager Collections
National Herbarium of New South Wales
Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands
Mrs Macquaries Road
Sydney NSW 2000

Most herbaria in the world and within Australia have a longstanding tradition of exchanging herbarium specimens for the purpose of a broader diversity of species and increased accessibility of specimens for scientific research. Duplicate materials are donated to other institutions throughout the world and in return, NSW receives about 10,000 exchange specimens annually from these institutions. 

Herbarium label information for exchange specimens from NSW can be sent electronically to the receiving organisation in HISPID (Herbarium Information Standards and Protocols for Interchange of Data) format. We encourage, and appreciate, the full transfer of electronic data with herbarium collections being donated to NSW, including permit information.

The loan and exchange of specimens or samples of Australian species can only occur between registered scientific institutions. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and Australian Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 strictly control the movement of specimens and parts of specimens of some taxa. 

Strict quarantine regulations apply to the importation of herbarium specimens into Australia. Institutions wishing to send material to NSW must first contact the Manager Collections for information on quarantine requirements, and consult BICON, the Australian Biosecurity Import Conditions database, for further details. International shipping guidelines can be found here.

Accessing the collection

In preparation of moving and digitising over 1.43 million specimens, access to the National Herbarium of NSW and its collections is closed to visitors and researchers until 2020. Please see below for alternative options.

Once the herbarium collection has moved to the new centre at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan in 2021, the main research collection will be open to researchers by prior appointment only with: 

Manager Collections, Shelley James
National Herbarium of New South Wales 
(02) 9231 8013

This collection is available for people looking to identify their own plant collections. To access this collection please see the Botanical Information Service contact details further below. 

Public tours are regularly scheduled for the Herbarium and Library. Please see the What's On page for dates and booking information. Tours for special interest groups may be requested (maximum 15 people per tour), but as of January 2019 will be restricted. For more information, please contact: 

Manager Collections, Shelley James
National Herbarium of New South Wales
(02) 9231 8013

For education group tours, please contact:
School Booking Officer
(02) 9231 8111

Our History

The Herbarium is home to over 800 plant collections made by botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander in 1770 on Captain Cook's first voyage to the Pacific. Discover more about the Herbarium's rich history in our gallery below. 

Collecting information

Most plants can be preserved as permanent reference material through careful pressing and drying practices followed by storage in dry and insect-free conditions found in Herbariums.

Although lacking the freshness and colour of live material, well-collected and prepared specimens with field notes usually provide most of the features needed for identification and systematic research. 

Collections must not be made in national or state parks or nature reserves, nor of protected plant species unless a permit has been obtained from the appropriate authority (in NSW it is the Director-General, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service). Such permits are generally only given for collections made in the course of scientific studies.

For information on identifying plant specimens please see Plant Information and the Botanical Information Service section further below. For information on the collection, preparation and preservation of plant specimens please read the chapter on ‘How to Collect Plants’.

A type specimen is a preserved specimen selected to serve as a permanent reference point for a scientific plant name. Type specimens are vitally important to botanists in determining the correct application of botanical names. There are a number of different categories of types recognised under the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants: 

  1. Holotype: The single specimen designated as the type of a species by the original author at the time the species name and description was published.
  2. Isotype: A duplicate specimen of the holotype.
  3. Syntype: Any of two or more specimens listed in the original description of a taxon when a holotype was not designated. Isosyntypes are duplicates of a syntype.
  4. Lectotype: A specimen chosen by a later researcher to serve as the primary type. It is chosen from among the specimens available to the original author of a name when the holotype was either lost or destroyed, or when no holotype was designated. Isolectotypes are duplicates of a lectotype.
  5. Neotype: A specimen chosen by a later researcher to serve in place of a holotype when all specimens available to the original author of a name have been lost or destroyed. Isoneotypes are duplicates of a neotype.
Botanical Information Service

We provide comprehensive plant identification over the counter, fax or email. However, please see below information as there are changes to way the service will work while the National Herbarium of NSW is closed.

The Herbarium collections are being digitised and the collection and staff are moving to new facilities at the Australian Botanic Gardens Mount Annan in 2021. Please note there are changes to way the service will work during this time. 

Please note we will no longer be able to service over-the-counter enquiries. We will still provide a comprehensive plant identification and botanical information service and will still be accepting mail, email and phone enquiries. We will continue to also provide general botanical information including current scientific names of plants and details on the distribution of NSW plants.

We will be endeavouring to keep up our usual standard of service but there is the possibility of delays due to our Digitisation Project and declining access to our collections. The Public Reference Collection (PRC) will be closed until we move the collection to the new building.

To determine the best way to prepare your specimens for identification please see Collecting Plant Specimens. For root identification, please see Root Identification (RID) as part of the Plant Disease Diagnostic Unit. For urgent enquiries relating to poisonings from plants or mushrooms, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

Free Identification

For up to 12 specimens (or four hours work) per year for members of the public and Foundation & Friends members, after which commercial rates apply. 
Note: please restrict your enquiry to no more than 12 specimens at any one time

Minimum Charge Mail - $45.50
Plant Identifications Per specimen - $23
Consulting Fee $145-$230/hour depending on the complexity of the job
Urgent Enquiries Enquiries requiring immediate attention are charged at a rate of 50% more than standard enquiries

There will be a 4% increase in fees (rounded off) at the beginning of the next financial year.

Note: Enquirers with new, important or quality specimen(s) that we can add to the Herbarium collection, will not incur a fee for identification of the specimen(s).

Download the Botanical Information Service Enquiry Form (PDF)

Mail: Botanical Information Service
National Herbarium of NSW
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust
Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney 2000


Phone: 9231 8111 (between 10 am and 1 pm weekdays, except  public holidays)

Learn more about the herbarium in our Branch Out podcast

If you like the show, subscribe to Branch Out on your Apple or Android podcast app.