History of Herbaria in New Zealand

Banks and Solander Specimen

The oldest known specimens from New Zealand are those collected by Banks and Solander on Cook's first voyage in 1769-1770.  These are housed at the Natural History Museum (BM) in London, with duplicates at the Allan Herbarium (CHR), the Auckland War Memorial Museum (AK), and the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa (WELT).

Public herbaria have existed in New Zealand since the foundation of the country's first museums in the 1850s and 1860s.  Herbaria were established at the Colonial Museum (now the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa) in 1865, Canterbury Museum in 1867, Otago Museum c. 1870, and Auckland Museum in 1870.  Only those at the Museum of New Zealand and Auckland Museum are still maintained in their original institutions.

The growth of the Government's major research organisation, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, led to the establishment in 1928 of CHR, which has developed into the country's largest herbarium; and the foundation in 1936 of PDD, the specialist national fungal herbarium.

The seven university herbaria, established principally as teaching collections, are generally of more recent origin, mostly dating from after the Second World War.  In addition, the post-war era saw the development of government-funded specialist herbaria at the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua, and the Ministry of Agriculture's Plant Health Diagnostic Station at Levin.

There are currently 16 Herbaria operating in New Zealand, 13 of which are registered internationally.  The following herbarium collections have been transferred to the collection indicated in brackets: