Foreign collection project

Project summary

The aim of the Foreign Collection Project is to database specimens collected outside of Australia and held at the National Herbarium of Victoria (MEL). It is estimated that this collection, which was predominately collected in the 19th century, is in excess of 400,000 specimens.

Prior to being curated and databased, these specimens are largely inaccessible; many are housed in old strawboards and in some instances have not been examined since they were received as part of the Sonder herbarium in 1883.

This project will focus on databasing dicotyledon specimens in families Winteraceae through to Polygonaceae (families 1–76 in the Cronquist system).

Having these specimens mounted and databased facilitates access by Australian and overseas botanists for taxonomic and systematic research; enables determination of plant types and genetic histories; and makes the collecting information available for government agencies to use for biosecurity purposes.

Currently all specimens in families Winteraceae through to Fumariaceae are databased and records are now available on Australia's Virtual Herbarium. These specimens provide an invaluable record of past plant distributions.

The project which began in June 2014, has identified collections from all continents, except Antartica. Notable findings include the following significant collections made by famous 19th-century collectors, among them:

  • H.O. Forbes from Papua New Guinea,
  • Dr King’s Collector (H.H. Kunstler) from Malaysia
  • N. Wallich, J.D. Hooker and T. Thomson from India
  • G.H.K. Thwaites from Sri Lanka
  • F.W. Sieber’s exssicatae sets from around the world
  • N.S.Turczaninow collections from eastern Russia
  • J.N. Szovits from Iran and Azerbaijan
  • C.G. Pringle from Mexico
  • F. Buchanan-Hamilton from Nepal
  • specimens used in Martius’ Flora brasiliensis, collected by M.A.P. zu Wied, A.F. Regnell and J.F. Widgren
  • African continent collections made by C.F. Ecklon and C.L.P. Zeyher in South Africa, F.M.J. Welwitsch in Angola and G.H.W. Schimper in Ethiopia.

To date, over 3000 type specimens from the family Winteraceae through to Geraniaceae have been identified and most of these are from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Papua New Guinea. These type specimens have been digitised and a high resolution image of each sepcimen has been delivered to Global Plants Initiative on JSTOR.

Project team

Pina Milne (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria)

Rita Macheda (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria)

Miranda Boyle (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria)

Amy Ahmet (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, May - September 2016)


  • Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation Victoria and Director's Circle
  • Erica Foundation
  • Maud Gibson Trust
  • Meg Bentley
  • Marian Brookes
  • Mark & Tamara Boldiston