Te Papa's botany section maintains a herbarium of about 230,000 dried plant specimens including flowering plants, gymnosperms, ferns, mosses, liverworts, lichens and algae. It covers both native and introduced species from all parts of New Zealand, as well as plant fossils and a range of timber samples. It also has a foreign collection, mostly of species from related areas such as Australia, the Pacific and Europe. The most rapidly growing parts of the collection are the ferns, seaweeds, mosses and lichens.
The oldest New Zealand specimens in the collection are those collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander during Cook's first voyage in 1769. Since the foundation of the Museum in 1865 the private collections of many well-known New Zealand botanists have been donated to the collection including those of William Colenso, John Buchanan, Leonard Cockayne, Thomas Kirk, Charles Knight, Donald Petrie and many others. As a result, there are well over 1000 type specimens in the collection - the original specimens on which published descriptions of new species are based.
In addition to plant specimens, there are original paintings of plants by John Buchanan, Fanny E Richardson and E H Featon, and much archival material relating to early botanists and collectors. There is also an extensive botanical library.
The herbarium is regularly used by botanists, historians, researchers and members of the public for identification purposes, scientific study and biographical research. Material is also loaned to institutions all over the world. Herbarium staff provide a wide range of botanical information requested by outside organisations and individuals, prepare material for display and run courses on native plants.
Botany staff are also involved in several major research programmes. These include biosystematic studies of New Zealand flowering plants, ferns, lichens and mosses, and marine algae, and biographies of significant botanists. Currently there are six full time members of staff and several associated research workers.
To find out more about Te Papa's plant collection send us a question, or enquire at NatureSpace, the natural environment Discovery Centre on Level 2.
In the Te Papa herbarium Jeff Fox, botany collection manager, examines a dried kowhai specimen grown from seed collected by Banks and Solander
Te Papa's plant collection
biosystematic studies : the identification, classification and evolutionary relationships of living organisms.