Queensland Herbarium

The Queensland Herbarium is part of a national and international network of herbaria which exchange specimens and scientific information, helping to improve our knowledge of the Queensland flora. Its staff and research associates use the specimen collections to provide comprehensive and expert knowledge about the Queensland flora and its ecosystems.

The Queensland Herbarium provides the science and information for a broad range of industry sectors, landholders, and the community for the management of the state’s biodiversity. It supports a range of Commonwealth and state legislation, and any plant collected for research or biodiscovery purposes in Queensland must be provided to the herbarium, as required by the Biodiscovery Act 2004 and Nature Conservation Act 1992.

State scientific collection

The Queensland Herbarium’s 880,000 specimen collection underpins our knowledge of the state’s species and plant communities. It holds a vast amount of information about Queensland’s plants, algae, and macro-fungi, representing over 150 years of species discovery in Queensland and documents the state’s biodiversity through space and time.

The collection is internationally recognised in the Index Herbariorum (a worldwide index of 3,100 herbaria housing 390 million botanical specimens). Over 10,000 type specimens, the specimens to which new names are permanently assigned, are housed in the Brisbane facility for reference by taxonomists around the world.

Annually, scientists associated with the herbarium discover 20-50 new species. In 2019/20, the group published 27 scientific articles, describing 30 new species in Queensland. Each year at least 10,000 new specimens are added to the collection, which dates back to 1770 and the original collections of Banks and Solander.

Case study – Phytomining

Image showing the New Caledonia tree Pycnandra acuminata bleeds a latex exudate that contains 25% nickel. Image: Antony van der Ent, The University of Queensland.
The New Caledonia tree Pycnandra acuminata bleeds a latex exudate that contains 25% nickel. Image: Antony van der Ent, The University of Queensland.

Environmental rehabilitation of abandoned mines and surrounding land requires amelioration of soil contaminated with heavy metals, which may limit subsequent use of the land for agricultural or residential purposes. One potential solution is in the strategic use of ‘hyperaccumulators’, plant species that can thrive in these soils and accumulate specific metals in their biomass. These plants have application to ‘phytomine’ selected metals from the soil by concentration in their tissues.

Only 0.2 per cent of known plant species are hyperaccumulators. Considering the climatic and water needs of individual plant species, it is important to identify and study as many as possible for successful mine rehabilitation in a range of circumstances. Specimens held in the herbarium are assisting scientists to identify new species of hyperaccumulators. Investigators from the University of Queensland are using herbarium specimens to identify new species that can be used for phytomining of these toxic landscapes.

Access to the collection

You can access the Herbarium data through The Australasian Virtual Herbarium.

If you are a member of the public, you can use the public reference centre (more information on the website) to identify your own plant specimens, using microscopes, identification guides and reference specimens. The Queensland Herbarium is open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

The Queensland Herbarium collection may be accessed by bona fide researchers. Requests for access should be addressed to the Director prior to arrival.

Contact Queensland Herbarium