Our Angiosperm collection has a global coverage with strong holdings in key research families and geographical areas.

Examples from the collection

Important Historical Collections

John Hutton Balfour (1808-1884) & Isaac Bayley Balfour (1853-1922)


Father and son were major botanical figures in their day and both were Regius Keepers of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Hutton Balfour mainly collected in Europe and made, with his students, many botanical excursions in Scotland. Sir Isaac collected in Rodriguez and Socotra; in his Botany of Socotra, over 300 new species were described; some of the top sets of his specimens - flowering plants and cryptogams - are in E.

Robert Brown (1773-1858)

Born in Montrose, Scotland in 1773, Robert Brown made his mark as a scientist in botany and palaeobotany. He is most famously known for his discovery of Brownian motion which came through his use of microscopy to investigate pollen grains in water. Robert Brown is also one of the most significant collectors of plants in Australia. Arriving in Australia in 1801 Brown and his colleagues then spent the next four years travelling around Australia and making substantial numbers of herbarium, seed, mineral and zoological collections.

Brian (Bill) Laurence Burtt (1913-2008)

After collecting in the 1960s in Sarawak, BL Burtt from then on made major collections in southern Africa often with O.M. Hilliard; introduced into cultivation many plants new to gardens. The first set of all his collections are at RBGE. Author and co-author of numerous important contributions to the taxonomy and nomenclature of a wide range of plant families, including Gesneriaceae and Zingiberaceae. Vol. 60 (3) of the Edinburgh Journal of Botany, published in 2003, was a Festschrift for his 90th birthday with contributions from numerous friends and colleagues throughout the world.

Charles Darwin (1809-1892)
Christian Ramsay, Countess of Dalhousie (1786-1839)
Peter H. Davis (1918-1992)

University lecturer and professor of taxonomy at Edinburgh University and, for decades, closely linked with RBGE and its staff. His first collections in the east Mediteranean were made before the last war. After student days in Edinburgh he made very large and fundamentally important collections, with different co-collectors, in Turkey and almost all Mediterranean countries; also collected in other parts of the world. From the mid-1950s on, all his first sets and field notebooks are at RBGE. The driving force, editor of, and major contributor to the 10 volumes of the definitive Flora of Turkey and the east Aegean islands, completed in the 23 years between 1965 and 1988.

George Don senior (1764-1814)

George Don spent much of his life exploring the corries and glens of Angus and further afield to Arran, Ben Nevis and Skye.  His plant collections in the early 19th C. from these remote places uncovered many species that had never been seen in Britain before and at times has led to a certain amount of controversy over their authenticity.

Charles du Bois (c. 1656–1740)

Charles Du Bois (c. 1656–1740) was Treasurer of the East India Company and hence almost 20% of his specimens came from India and Burma. At RBGE there are 52 Indian sheets mainly collected at Fort St George, the present day Chennai in South India, between 1700 and 1712, which are among the oldest specimens in the RBGE herbarium. They came to us from the University of Oxford in the late 19th century.

George Forrest (1837-1932)

George Forrest was first sent to China in 1904 by the Regius Keeper Isaac Bayley Balfour. On this and six subsequent expeditions Forrest collected prolifically in NW Yunnan, SW Sichuan, SE Tibet and NE Upper Burma. The result was vast quantities of seed for a variety of British garden owners and firms, and specimens (30,000 numbers in multiple sets) for the RBGE herbarium, especially in the genera Rhododendron and Primula. Balfour and his successors supplemented these by acquiring specimens from other Chinese collectors notably Joseph Rock and Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti, and the enormous herbarium of Hector Léveillé. On these foundations modern collections have been added - the basis for RBGE's research on the Flora of China and monographic studies.

Paul Dietrich Giseke (1741-1796)
Olive Mary Hilliard (1925- )
William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865)
Isabell Wylie Hutchison (1889-1982)
Augustin Abel Hector Léveillé (1863-1918)

Frank Ludlow (1885-1972) & George Sherriff (1898-1967)

Thanks to the generosity of the Natural History Museum, RBGE has a fine set of the collections made by Ludlow and Sherriff on a series of expeditions to Bhutan and SE Tibet between 1933 and 1949. They concentrated on the alpine flora, and on groups such as Primula and Rhododendron that would grow in Scottish gardens. The Bhutanese collections are of special importance, as, thanks to their friendship with the Wangchuk and Dorje families, Ludlow & Sherriff had unparalleled access to the country which had previously been visited botanically only by William Griffith (1838) and Roland Cooper (1914-15). As Cooper's specimens were also here, RBGE was asked to write the Flora of Bhutan. These East Himalayan collections were augmented with duplicate sets of collections made in Nepal by Adam Stainton and others from 1954 onwards, which form the focus of RBGE's current Himalayan work.

Archibald Menzies (1754-1842)
William Roxburgh (1751-1815)

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (E) has more than one set of specimens collected in South India by William Roxburgh (1751–1815). The sets are distinguished by mounting papers of different dates, colours and styles, and by their means of labelling – with annotations in a variety of hands (some written on the sheet, some on attached tickets).

George Arnott Walker-Arnott (1799-1868)
Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854)
Robert Wight (1796-1872)