Loans and exchange program

The loan and exchange of specimens between herbaria is an essential part of botanical and mycological research. Botanists or mycologists studying a particular group of plants or fungi need to examine a broad range of herbarium material in order to get a broad overview of the taxa being studied. The National Herbarium of Victoria (MEL) lends, borrows and exchanges more than 20,000 specimens each year.

Herbarium loans

MEL lends specimens to, and borrows specimens from, registered herbaria within Australia and internationally. We have a strong international loans program due to both our comprehensive collection and the fact that many Australian specimens collected in the 19th century are housed in overseas herbaria. Loans may consist of a single specimen, or several thousand, depending on the group concerned and the nature of the study.

Loan requests must conform to MEL's Guidelines for loan requests (MS Word – 913 kb). Where approved, loans are subject to MEL's Loan Conditions (MS Word – 915 kb).

Exchange program

Herbaria have a longstanding tradition of exchanging plant specimens. MEL has exchange agreements with all major Australian herbaria and many international herbaria. Exchanging specimens allows herbaria to expand the geographical and taxonomic coverage of their holdings, thus providing valuable comparative material. The distribution of duplicates also partially ‘insures’ specimens against loss or damage (duplicates are specimens collected at the same time and from the same plant, fungus or population as the primary specimen). Duplicates are generally distributed according to geographic region and the research interests of particular botanists.

As well as exchanging material with other herbaria, MEL also receives donations from institutions and individuals. Donations may comprise a single specimen or an entire herbarium. Potential donors should contact the Collections Manager before sending material.

Regulations governing herbarium loans and exchange

Various Australian and international laws govern the loan and exchange of herbarium specimens. Internationally, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ensures that trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Australia has strict laws governing what can be brought into the country. Herbarium material is subject to regulation and inspection by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) Biosecurity agency (formerly AQIS) to ensure that parcels are free of quarantine risks such as exotic pests and diseases.