Destructive sampling of herbarium specimens

This policy is for herbarium specimens only. See links for information about sampling of living collections and for a pdf version of the policy and form.

With its rich collection of living plants and an important herbarium RBGE receives many requests from scientists and horticulturists from around the world for samples for research e.g. DNA sequencing, pollen analysis or seed collection. 

Meticulous records are kept of all the material sent out and, at the same time, we always make a voucher specimen of any material requested from the living collections, to ensure that there is a permanent record if the plant were lost. 

Because of this record keeping system and our finite resources we cannot satisfy all requests. We will attempt to approve as many of these requests as we can but will limit the number of samples per request. Priority will be given to cases where the researcher concerned is actively collaborating with a staff member at RBGE and the research will lead to a joint publication.  

Policy and procedure

1. In response to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh supplies plant material, including seeds, DNA and pollen samples on condition that:
a) The plant material is used for the common good in areas of research, education, conservation and the development of botanic gardens.
b) Access to material from RBGE's collection is for non-commercial use only. Any commercial exploitation of material must be carried out under the terms of the Convention on Biological Diversity and will require the full agreement of the host country that provided the source material.
c) The genetic material, its products or resources deriving from it are not passed on to a third party for commercialisation without written permission from the country of origin and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

2. All requests for removal of samples from herbarium specimens should be addressed to the Herbarium Curator. Requests should specify the type of material required and the nature of the research.

No material may be removed from specimens without prior consent from the Herbarium Curator.

3. Evidence must be produced that DNA extraction has been successful from herbarium sheets in the group concerned, usually the genus.

4. Each request must be accompanied by a signed ‘Conditions of Use of material derived from the RBGE Herbarium Collection' declaration form (CBD). The CBD form for herbarium material is available on the web. No material will be sent out until a completed CBD form has been received.

5. If permission is granted, the material requested will be removed by staff of the RBGE. Details of the sampling will be recorded onto the Herbarium data-base and noted on to the herbarium sheet. This will include the type of material removed, reference number, date of removal, name and Institution of the person who requested the material.

6. It is a condition of supply that any publication resulting from the use of plant material should acknowledge the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as supplier or, under certain circumstances, be published in collaboration with staff from RBGE. A copy of any publication, report or data gained from the material MUST be lodged with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

7. An aliquot from each DNA sampling will be returned to RBGE.

8. RBGE reserves the right to refuse, without explanation if necessary, to supply genetic resources to a Recipient.

No material will be taken from Type Specimens, historical specimens, or specimens dried in alcohol.

9. The herbarium specimen may be requested on loan for consultation. See links for information about our loans policy.

10. The taxon, collector's name and collection number must be referred to when requesting and citing the voucher specimen.

11. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh cannot guarantee the material as verified. Any queries should be sent to the Herbarium Curator.

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