About the herbarium

The herbarium with its many boxes of pressed plants

Hello, this blog is from the herbarium at the Manchester Museum.  Our intention is to let you know a little bit about what we do here behind the scenes at the museum and share with you the sorts of things we find interesting.

The herbarium itself is a collection of some 750,000 specimens of preserved plants.  Most are in the form of pressed specimens on flat sheets.  Some are in small packets e.g. the mosses and lichens and some are even 3D e.g. our collection of fruits and seeds. The collection covers a whole range of botanical groups including flowering plants, mosses, seaweeds, fungi and lichens.

The Herbarium was founded in 1860 by the coalition of several major individual or corporate collections. In particular the two nineteenth century Manchester businessmen and amateur naturalists, Charles Bailey and Cosmo Melvill, inspired by the original and substantial collections of the Manchester Natural History Society, collaborated to collect and buy plant material from around the world, and arranged for their final deposition at the Museum. Bailey and Melvill alone provided a wide range of plant collections unequalled by any but a few major national museums. Also, at that time the museum acquired the very special collection of plants, many cultivated, together with illustrations and text, that were assembled by Leo Grindon in connection with his pioneering work in Adult Education.

In addition to this foundation material, the Museum’s Herbarium incorporates collections from thousands of other people, ranging from small personal herbariums donated or bequeathed, to material collected today by expeditions to tropical rain forests and other endangered habitats. There are also many items of historical importance and interest, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle, specimens collected by Admiral Franklin’s expeditions in search of the N.W. Passage, and collections of the great Swedish naturalist Linnaeus. In particular, the 16,500 Richard Spruce items (mostly Amazon and Andes hepatics) have a value far in excess of their number.

9 thoughts on “About the herbarium

    […] Herbology Manchester: stories from the Manchester Museum Herbarium […]

    Carol said:
    October 13, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Please…Could you tell me if there is a tree that has quite large green leaves on it and some kind od of ornamint or fruit that is dark brown and shaped like a peanutbutter cup..I am not joking. I have this in the middle of my garden..I think it is a tree I planted in 2003..I thought it died, but suddenly this tree shaped thing is growing..It is almost 5 foot tall. My husband wants to cut it down. I will not let him until I find out what it is..It is very striking and unusual. Thank you.

    Josie said:
    September 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Hi, I was just wondering if the herbarium is open to the public?

    Lindsey said:
    November 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Hi josie
    The herbarium is open to anyone who is interested. Just contact us here to make an appointment and come and have a look! http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/staff/

    Into the Eremozoic said:
    May 21, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Interesting blog…good to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the herbarium.

      Rachel said:
      May 30, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Thank you for visiting! We shall have to check out yours.

    peter gould said:
    May 17, 2016 at 7:53 am

    hi there being a saffron producer I was wondering if you store any old seed that maybe germinated out of interest?

      Rachel said:
      May 19, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Hi Peter, Sorry, no we don’t store seed. most of the collection is pressed plants and collectors ten to pick flowers!

    cathysrealcountrygardencom said:
    December 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    I love this blog, it is full of fascinating things. Minor gripe I wish the side bar wasn’t so huge as it distracts from the wonderful text and illustrations in the actual articles.🌿

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