The Herbarium at Edinburgh

RBGE's extensive Herbarium numbers nearly three million specimens representing half to two thirds of the world's flora. It is considered a leading botanical collection, and every year many researchers from around the world visit to study our specimens in a well-designed and user-friendly setting.


Although the Garden was founded in 1670, its herbarium is a 19th century creation, as science became increasingly professional and organised. Prior to this, herbaria had existed, but they were the personal property of the Regius Keeper (John Hope and Robert Graham had notable herbaria), and left the Garden on the death of their owner.

The starting point came with the fusion of the collections of the University of Edinburgh and the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in 1839-40. Over the years, a large number of collections have been added, belonging to individuals (e.g., R.K. Greville and J.H. Balfour) and institutions (Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Hull). From the early 20th century, collections have been made by members of staff (e.g. Peter Davis).

The present Herbarium building 

The present herbarium building

The most important historical collection is that of George Walker Arnott, which came with the University of Glasgow's foreign herbarium deposited on permanent loan in 1965. This collection contains specimens from all the major mid-19th century collectors, especially from India, North and South America, and South Africa, including type material of species described by ‘Hooker & Arnott'.

RBGE's Herbarium moved into its present, purpose-built home in 1964. In 2005-2006, the building was renovated and expanded to house an even greater number of cabinets. The refurbished and enlarged Herbarium building was re-opened in March 2006.

Incorporated herbaria

CTN: Herbarium, Free Library and Museum, Campbeltown, Strathclyde Region, Scotland U.K.
EBH: Herbarium, Botanical Society of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland U.K.
EDH: Herbarium, Plinian Society, Edinburgh, Scotland U.K.
EGH: Herbarium, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland U.K.
GL: (except British) on permanent loan: Herbarium, Botany Department, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland U.K.
NCCE: Herbarium, Nature Conservancy Council, 12 Hope Terrace, Edinburgh, Scotland U.K.
NCE: (tropical pteridophytes): Herbarium, School of Biological Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, England U.K.

Staff Directory

Dr David Harris Herbarium Curator and Deputy Director of Science

Suzanne Cubey (Deputy Herbarium Curator)

Dr Elspeth Haston (Deputy Herbarium Curator)

Robert Cubey (Plant Records Officer)

Robyn Drinkwater (Herbarium Digitiser / Technical Developer)

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The original herbarium building

The Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society Hall which housed the herbarium prior to 1964

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)