National Herbarium of Sri Lanka

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National Herbarium of Sri Lanka
Type Herbarium
Location Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Coordinates 7°16′16″N 80°35′44″E / 7.27111°N 80.59556°E / 7.27111; 80.59556 (Botanical Garden of Peradeniya)Coordinates: 7°16′16″N 80°35′44″E / 7.27111°N 80.59556°E / 7.27111; 80.59556 (Botanical Garden of Peradeniya)
Created around 1821
Operated by Department of National Botanic Gardens, Sri Lanka
Status Open all year
Website Official Website

National Herbarium is the major national institution responsible for authentication of plants of Sri Lanka. The National Herbarium actively involved in plant exploration, identification, specimen preparation, also documentation and revision of revision of floral wealth of the country. By surveying and inventorying plant genetic resources especially for Food and Agriculture, it contributes significantly to the development of the national economy.

It provides facilities to the local and foreign researchers to carry out taxonomy related research work also serving the National Plant Quarantine and Customs to identify plants correctly when legal matter arises in plant and plant material import and export. Recently it has also being recognized as National Red Listing Authority of plants in Sri Lanka. The National herbarium engaged in exchange of knowledge and specimens with the herbaria and research institutes of the other parts of the world.

At present scientists in the National Herbarium involve in studying lower plants diversity of Bryophytes and Lichens. A special project on compiling information on Crops Wild Relatives (CWR) is also in progress which helps to identify clearly which wild crop relatives and wild plants for food and Agriculture need to be protected in-situ.

History of Development of the National Herbarium, Sri Lanka (1821-1904)[edit]

The National Herbarium was started by Alexander Moon in 1821, developing slowly with specimens added by Moon and his successors. In 1845, George Gardner added many specimens to the Herbarium, far more than in previous years. These were resulted from his two excursions to Adam’s peak and Jaffna and other places in the north. He reports that the Adams peak trip was very interesting and productive since he could discover some new and rare species. The Jaffna trip yielded an immense number of species which are well known on the opposite coasts of India and not previously known to be present in Sri Lanka. He was particularly taken up by the mustard tree of the scripture, Salvadora persica, the identity of this tree with that mentioned in scripture was first pointed out by Dr. Royle only a few years before this trip. He describes that the largest trees were found in Elephant Pass. He brought some seeds of that to Peradeniya.

The descriptions of the most interesting of the new species discovered during these excursions were sent to Calcutta Journal of Natural History for publication. Gardner was planning to visit the south end of the island, Badulla District and the country south and east to it to commence his general work on the botany of the whole island. He was planning to make observations on geology, soil, climate and cultivated and natural vegetable productions to be included in this work.

George Henry Kendrick Thwaites, who took over the position of Director in 1849, added 9 books to the library in exchange for dried specimens of plants in 1856.


1. The basis of Taxonomic Research

 In addition to the systematic research activities, the National Herbarium provides the  following services to the public: 

2. Plant Identification and information service

 Serves as a fundamental National Institute for identification of all plants of the  world.  

3. Plant Exploration

 Surveying and collecting Plant  Information 

4. Documentation of the Floral Wealth of the Country and Publication on them.

 Preparing Publications on; 

Country Floras (Flora of Ceylon Volumes I to XV) Provisional and District Floras Field Guides Books, Check Lists, Brochures on Medicinal, Poisonous and Economical Plants

5. Teaching

 Provides services and conduct education programmes; Lectures, Work Shops, awareness programmes and Field Exploration Studies for school children, and people occupy in related disciplines. 

Biodiversity History of Herbarium Herbarium Techniques and Its management

Giving Specialists support to identify plant Groups; Flowering plants, Ferns, Bryophytes, Lichens.

6. Preservation of Voucher specimens

7. Exchange of information and material

 Exchanging information and dried plant specimens with other standard herbaria of the world. Sending and return  

8. Providing Library facilities for botanists and other professionals.

Flora of Sri Lanka[edit]

The Handbook to the Flora of Ceylon, by Henry Trimen, published in 1893-1900, was in its time, one of the most comprehensive and outstanding floras available for any comparable tropical area. In 1931 A.H.G. Alston added a volume of additions, updating, and corrections to the original five volumes. These six volumes for many years served their purposes very well.

Professor B.A. Abeywickrama, of University of Ceylon at Peradeniya produced an updated Checklist of the Ceylon Flora in 1959. The revision of Trimen's Flora was started in February 1968 under the joint auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, the Sri Lanka Department of Agriculture and the University of Ceylon, at Peradeniya with Dr. F.R. Fosberg as principal investigator. Nine volumes were published under the editorship of Prof. M.D. Dassanayake of the University of Peradeniya and Dr. F.R. Fosberg of the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1990 the British Overseas Development Administration undertook to complete the revision by funding collaboration between Royal Botanic gardens, Peradeniya and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Prof. M.D. Dassanayake and Dr. W.D. Clayton edited those volumes (Vol. 10-14). allowing a gradual withdrawal of the Smithsonian contribution.

The plan has been to enlist the cooperation of botanists, from wherever available who are preferably experts in particular families represented in the flora of Sri Lanka.

The materials on which the flora revisions are based are the visiting botanists' own collections, the National Herbarium at Peradeniya, personal collections of Mr. K.L.D. Amaratunga and the late Mr. Thomas B. Worthington of Kandy, the materials housed in various foreign herbaria, especially those of Kew, British Museum, and the Indian National Herbarium, Calcutta. A large amount of valuable material was amassed as vouchers for the ecological observations and has been utilized by the flora project botanists.


External Sources[edit]