Collections at the National Herbarium, Pretoria (PRE)

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The collection currently contains approximately 1.2 million specimens, of which almost 800 000 are computerised. Most specimens are from southern Africa, but the collection extends into the rest of Africa and surrounding islands and includes small collections from outside Africa. Vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens and fossil plants are represented.

Vascular plants

These plant specimens are kept in modern steel cabinets with magnetic sealing doors and older wooden cabinets made of different kinds of wood and now forming a valuable collection of examples of worked timber.

Vascular plants are numbered according to Englerian system.


The oldest specimen in this collection is a specimen of Erica mammosa, collected by W.J. Burchell (1781-1863) on the Cape Flats near Salt River in January 1811. Some other historically interesting specimens are: Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. africana var. africana collected by Burke & Zeyher on their first trip to the Magaliesberg in 1841 and Ochna pulchra, collected by General J.C. Smuts near the Pienaars River, 50 miles west of Warmbaths, in October 1932.


Cryptogamic Herbarium (bryophytes and lichens)

The cryptogamic collection of the Pretoria National Herbarium (PRE) consists of more than 80 000 mounted specimens of bryophytes (hornworts, liverworts and mosses). It contains the
largest and most representative collection of southern African cryptogams. The PRE cryptogamic herbarium is the largest of its kind in Africa and one of the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Bryophyte and lichen specimens are kept in a vertical file packet/box system in standard broad-side card filing cabinets.

The private collection of T.R. Sim, the 'father' of southern African bryology, forms the nucleus of the PRE bryophyte herbarium. The bryophyte collections of the Transvaal Museum, Natal Herbarium (on permanent loan to PRE) and Compton Herbarium (ex South African Museum Herbarium) have been incorporated over the years. The number of bryophyte and lichen specimens in PRE has increased substantially in recent years through the efforts of R.E. Magill, J. van Rooy, S.M. Perold, F. Brusse, L. Smook, M. Koekemoer, E.G.H. Oliver, H.F. Glen, P. Vorster and other collectors of the National Botanical Institute. An extensive exchange program with more than 20 overseas herbaria has contributed to the cosmopolitan character of the PRE cryptogamic collection.

Palaeobotany Herbarium

This houses a superb collection of fossil plants from over 100 localities in southern Africa. The main emphasis is on the Late Triassic Molteno Flora (200 million years ago).

The Molteno is by far the richest plant-bearing formation of any age in South Africa and is the most comprehensively sampled.

Palaeobotanists Drs John Anderson and Heidi Anderson have collected over 30 000 slabs over a period of 30 years.

The collection is curated according to locality and stored in systematic order in cabinets specially designed to accommodate the heavy rocks.

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