Home > CANBR > Herbarium > Collection Manual


Collection Management Manual

Compiled by Jo Palmer
Collections Coordinator
December 2011

Table of Contents

    1.1 Location - CSIRO & Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG)
    1.2 Handling specimens
    2.1 Standard References
    2.2 Plant group arrangement
    2.3 Arrangement within a family
        2.3.1 Location and order of families on the shelves
        2.3.2 Order within Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Myrtaceae and Poaceae
        2.3.3 Taxon Folders
        2.3.4 Folder annotation
        2.3.5 Typical order of taxa within a family
    2.4 Cultivated vouchers
    2.5 Empty or ‘dummy’ folders and specimens
    2.6 Carpological Material
    2.7 Type Collection
    2.8 Spirit Collection
    2.9 Frequently Asked Questions
    Appendix 1 Political and geographic regions used to group specimens within a taxon
    Appendix 2 Mixed Collections - separating two collections on one sheet


1.1 Location - CSIRO and Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG)

The Australian National Herbarium collection comprises some 1.1 million herbarium specimens and several thousands of bottles of spirit material. The collection is an amalgamation of the CSIRO Plant Industry herbarium and the herbarium of the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG). The herbarium code for the combined collection is ‘CANB’. The specimens from the ANBG though maintain their CBG accession number. The collection is housed on two sites. [map]

1.2 Handling specimens

Herbarium specimens form the basis for many varied types of scientific research. Please handle herbarium specimens with care as they are very fragile and require handling in the correct manner. Always use a firm herbarium cardboard to carry specimens on when moving them around the herbarium. This gives the specimens support so the plant material does not get damaged. In the case of bryophyte, lichen or fungal specimens, which are in packets or small packet-sized boxes, they should be placed in a herbarium box when being moved. Never tip a specimen upside down (unless it is absolutely necessary to photocopy it) or place anything heavy eg. a book, on top of it, or lean on a specimen to write. Such pressure will damage the plant or fungal material also.


2.1 Standard References

The standard reference used for the layout of the collection is: Brummitt, R.K. (1992) Vascular Plant Families and Genera, RBG, Kew, although the layout does vary slightly and this is explained further below.

There are seven herbarium master copies of Brummitt that have been and will continue to be updated/annotated to reflect the current arrangement of families and genera in the herbarium collection. A copy of each book is located on the bench on each side of the compactus in Level 1 and 2 of Bldg 502A and on the centre bench of Level 1 of Bldg 502. There is also one copy each in the Mounting, Computer and Loans Rooms.

The Curation Table at http://www.anbg.gov.au/cgi-bin/curation should also be consulted as it indicates where CANB varies from Brummitt. It also indicates where the collection varies from the Australian Plant Census (APC) which also varies from Brummitt. The Curation Table is easily searchable on a number of fields.

2.2 Plant group arrangement

The vascular collections are arranged into the major plant groups, and then phylogenetically by family on the CSIRO site and alphabetically by family on the ANBG site. A numbering system is used to sequentially order the families starting with the most primitive Pteridophyte family Equisetaceae as number 1 followed by the Gymnosperms, Dicotyledons and Monocotyledons, finishing at family number 481, Pandanaceae.

*Note: If it is not clear what family a genus belongs to check either the Curation Table at http://www.anbg.gov.au/cgi-bin/curation or R. K. Brummitt (1992), Vascular Plant Families and Genera.

2.3 Arrangement within a family

2.3.1 Location and order of families on the shelves

A blue spot indicates that some non-Australian specimens have not yet been databased.

2.3.2 Order within Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Myrtaceae and Poaceae
2.3.3 Taxon folders
2.3.4 Folder annotation

Taxon folders are annotated along the lower edge to maintain the order on the shelves and assist with retrievability of the specimens needed without having to open every folder.


2.3.5 Typical order of taxa within a family

Within a family genera run in alphabetical order and within each genus species run in alphabetical order. The exceptions are families in section 2.3.2 that are divided into subfamily, tribe or group first, then genera and species run in alphabetical order as above. For an example of a typical taxon folder order within a family see Table 1.

Family – Thymelaeaceae


ciliata (also includes cf., aff. or ?ciliata)




subsp. dichotoma



subsp. flava


flava (subsp. status not known)






harveyi intergrade P. flava




var. imbricata f. gracillima



var. imbricata f. imbricata



var. imbricata intergrade var. major



var. major


imbricata (var. or f. status not known)



longifolia ms



X pilosa (named hybrid)



saxicola ‘ Paynes Hybrid’









ammocharis X imbricata



neoanglica X ammocharis

Pimelea saxicola hybrid (one parent not known)  


hybrid (uncertain parentage)



cv ‘Ruby’ (cultivar of unknown origin)



sp. Burketown (J. G. West 6758) BRI Herbarium

(not published but has a phrase name)



sp. (not identified to species incl. sp. nov.)


[No name]

specimens only identified to family


[various genera]

small mounted sheets


Table 1. A typical taxon folder order on the shelves

Each taxon is then divided into either Australian states/territories or geographical regions depending on its collection locality and placed into an appropriate coloured folder. The order within each taxon and appropriate folder colour for these divisions is outlined in Table 2 below:

Folder order within a single taxon

Taxon folder colour

Illustrations or notes about a taxon e.g. keys to species, distribution, descriptions, etc.

Green folders (still some brown folders with green stripes in the collection)

Wild specimens collected in Australia, state order west to east, except for Eucalyptus – which runs clockwise starting with NT.

*Note: [ ] is the old state code used on ANBG folders

Brown or buff

WA [W]

Brown or buff

NT [D]

Brown or buff

SA [S]

Brown or buff

Qld [Q]

Brown or buff

NSW [N] incl. Jervis Bay (ACT)

Brown or buff


Brown or buff

Vic. [V]

Brown or buff

Tas. [T]

Brown or buff

OCEANIC Is. [I] incl. Lord Howe Is (NSW); Norfolk Is., Ashmore & Cartier Reefs, Christmas Is., Cocos (Keeling) Is., Coral Sea, Macquarie Is (Tas.), Heard Is.

Brown or buff

CULT. [H] Specimens cultivated in Australia (see section 2.4)

Brown or buff

Wild specimens not collected in Australia, for detailed order see Appendix 1


CULT. [H] Specimens cultivated outside Australia (see section 2.4)


Australian specimens identified only to genus

Brown or buff

Non-Australian specimens identified only to genus


Australian specimens identified only to family

Brown or buff, changing to orange

Non-Australian specimens identified only to family; often in collector and collector number order

Blue, changing to orange

Small mounted sheets, alphabetical by genus


Table 2 Folder order and colour within a single taxon

2.4 Cultivated vouchers

Cultivated vouchers are housed in different folders depending on whether there is an existing wild specimen or wild details (represented by a dummy sheet) or not.

2.5 Empty or ‘dummy’ folders and specimens

Empty or ‘dummy’ folders and specimens can often be found in the collection. These folders are there for a reason, so please don’t throw them out just because they are empty. They provide a marker to indicate the following:

Fig. 4 Annotations on a dummy type folder

Fig. 5 Annotations on a dummy type folder when the type name is not the same as the current name

2.6 Carpological Material

Carpological material for each family is stored in herbarium specimen boxes on the top compactus shelf above where the relevant family begins. The front of the box is labelled with the family name and ‘FRUIT SEPARATE’. Some of the carpological collection is well curated and each specimen has a copy of the specimen label included in the bag with it. Carpological material for these taxa may be sorted into genera and this will be marked on the box. However, for the rest of the carpological collection the only details with the specimen will be the collector, collector number, name and sometimes a brief locality. Also several boxes may contain a mixture of genera. As families are curated their associated carpological material will be curated as well. The labels of herbarium specimens that have ‘Fruit Separate’ should be annotated as such.

2.7 Type Collection

The original type specimens are placed in red and white folders and are housed separately from the main collection. With the exception of Eucalyptus and Orchidaceae, the Dicot and Monocot types are housed on the CSIRO site in the Type Room, Bldg 502 Level 1 south side. Eucalyptus types are housed in Bldg 502A, level 1, north side, at the end of Myrtaceae in compactus Bay 137. The Orchidaceae types can be found in Bldg 502A, Level 2, south side, at the beginning of Orchidaceae, in compactus Bay 3. The Fern and Gymnosperm type specimens are housed on the ANBG site in boxes in the middle fixed bay of the south side of the herbarium compactus.

The families are arranged alphabetically within each major group e.g. Monocots and Dicots, and not phylogenetically as in the main collection. The type specimens are arranged alphabetically by genus and species within a family under their type name, not current name as in the main collection.

The categories of types housed in the Type Collection are:


Each of these type specimens, when fully curated, will have a copy of the relevant protologue, where the type is cited for a taxon, included with it. All type specimens are databased or will be in due course, and this is indicated by the ‘ANHSIR’ or ‘IBIS’ stamps on the sheet and the outside flimsy.

Cultivated types should be housed in the Type Room but any associated dummy sheets of wild collecting data, i.e. a wild voucher was never collected but the wild information exists as a database record, should be housed in the main collection as they are not part of the cultivated type specimen.

Some Type specimens do not have type status at CANB, so should not be housed in the Type Room. They should be incorporated into the main collection under the relevant taxon, with the type information retained on the sheet and in the database. Type specimens that should not be housed in the Type Room include:

2.8 Spirit Collection

All the spirit material relevant to the herbarium collection is stored on compactus units in the purpose built Spirit Room, Bldg 502A, Level 2, north side at the western end. The bottles sit in perspex trays on the shelves. The order starts at the top left hand pigeon hole and runs down and up the columns the same as in the herbarium specimen collection. The solution that the specimens are preserved in is mostly either 70% ethanol or Bangmix which is 70% ethanol, 20% water and 10% glycerol. A small proportion of the older CSIRO bottles contain FAA (formaldehyde, ethanol and acetic acid). This liquid is toxic and corrosive, requires careful handling and in an area with adequate ventilation, e.g. a fume hood.

There are three separate collections housed in this room, each in its own order.

  1. Orchidaceae spirit material – is very well curated. The trays are ordered alphabetically by genus, with trays containing small bottles first and then the order starts again with the larger sized bottles. This collection occupies Bays 1-4 of the compactus.

  2. Eucalyptus spirit material – is very well curated. The trays are ordered alphabetically by species, and this collection occupies Bays 5-6 of the compactus.

  3. General spirit collection – requires a lot of attention. The trays are ordered phylogenetically to follow the old Bentham & Hooker system (an alphabetical family list is located on the top shelf of Bay 6 for finding family numbers). This collection occupies Bays 6-9 of the compactus. The shelved bottles are all CSIRO material. The CBG general spirit material is in wooden boxes on the static metal shelving next to the door and is in CBG accession number order.

**NOTE: Please be careful moving trays of bottles as they can be quite heavy.


2.9. Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1. What do the different coloured folders represent?

A. Brown or buff taxon folders house specimens from Australia and it’s External Territories. Blue folders are for specimens from outside Australia. Green folders house illustrations or notes about a taxon. Orange folders house specimens that are only identified to family. See Table 2 in section 2.3.5 for more details.

Q.2. Why are there empty taxon folders, red and white striped folders or blank ‘specimens’ on the shelves?

A. These folders are ‘dummy’ folders to indicate either 1. name changes in the collection, 2. specimens that are on loan, 3. type specimens or 4. specimens that are only represented by carpological or spirit material or a floral card. See section 2.5 for more detail.

Q.3. What do the brown folders that open left to right or the purple striped folders mean?

A. These folders represent the old system of indicating non-Australian specimens. They are gradually being replaced by blue folders. See section 2.3.2.

Q.4. Why are there 2 different sized taxon folders housing 2 different sized herbarium specimens?

A. The collection is an amalgamation of the CSIRO Plant Industry herbarium (large sheets) and the ANBG (formerly CBG) herbarium (small sheets). The two collections are now one and the collection is known as CANB. CSIRO and ANBG taxon folders of specimens of the same taxon/state are interleaved, small one above, larger one below, to allow easier retrievability of all like specimens while maintaining a stable pile in the pigeon hole.

Q.5. What is the material in newspaper/small sheets at the end of the genus/family?

A. The specimens in newspaper are unprocessed backlog that needs to be mounted before incorporation into the collection. The small sheets are the remainder of the CSIRO Land Research herbarium and also need to be remounted before they can be incorporated. Please don’t incorporate any of this material into the collection but leave it where it is and don’t add newly mounted specimens to these folders.

Q.6. Do all type specimens go into the Type Room?

A. No, only specimens in the following categories: holotype, isotype, syntype, isosyntype, lectotype, isolectotype, neotype, isoneotype should be incorporated into the Type Room. All other sorts of type e.g. paratype, topotype or clonotype and photographs of types should be incorporated into the main collection under their current name. See section 2.6.

Q.7. How does one find a spirit specimen in the Spirit Collection?

A. If the collection is a taxon other than Eucalyptus or Orchidaceae and has a CANB number, check the list on the top shelf of Bay 6 in the Spirit Room for the family number, then check the shelves. For more details see Section 2.7.


The Mosses, Lichens, Liverworts, Hornworts, Fungi and Algae are housed on the ANBG site. More details to be added later.


Appendix 1 Political and geographic regions used to group specimens within a taxon.

Geographic area

Countries, States or Islands ([W] is the old state code used on ANBG folders)

Territories, Countries or Islands included.


Use a separate taxon folder for specimens from each of the regions below (or if only a few specimens put together in one folder marked with geographic area).



W.A. [W]


N.T. [D]


S.A. [S]




N.S.W. [N]

Jervis Bay (ACT)


A.C.T. [C]







Lord Howe Is (NSW)


Norfolk Is.


Ashmore and Cartier Reefs


Christmas Is.


Cocos (Keeling) Is.


Coral Sea


Macquarie Is. (TAS)


Heard Is.

Pacific Islands

New Zealand


New Caledonia


Other Islands

Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii etc.

(see Papuasia
section in


East New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

West New Guinea

Irian Jaya/West Papua

Bismarck Archipelago


Solomon Is.



Lesser Sunda Is.
















S & SE Asia




Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia





Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldive Is. etc.



Hainan, Taiwan






Russian Federation


SW Asia

Afghanistan to Yemen to Turkey



UK to Scandinavia to Ukraine





North America

Canada, Greenland, USA


Central America

Mexico to Panama


South America


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