Skip to content

Green Plant Herbarium

Information on the History and Development, Systematic Collections, Historical Collections, Current Activities, University Use, & Location, Access, and Staff of the Green Plant Herbarium.

History and Development

The Green Plant Herbarium traces its roots back to the personal plant collections of Dr. H. H. Croft, the first Professor of Experimental Philosophy and Chemistry (appointed 1843), and Dr. W. Hincks, the first Professor of Natural History (appointed to University College 1853). The earliest of these collections date to 1837. After more than 150 years of growth, the Herbarium is probably the largest and most representative collection of the Ontario flora available. Together with material from elsewhere in North America and the rest of the world the collection now contains in excess of 250,000 vascular plant specimens and 100,000 bryophyte specimens.

Systematic Collections

Significant collections added over the years include those of John Macoun (1866-1901; Ottawa, Belleville, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia); W. Scott (1889-1906; Ontario and western Canada); James White (late 1800’s; Snelgrove, Ontario); The Royal Canadian Institute, Wade Watson (Temagami), M. Landon (Norfolk County); T. M. C. Taylor (1930’s; Lake Superior, and the Great Lakes basin in general); James Soper (1946-1968; Norfolk County); Paul M. Catling (1967-1980; throughout Ontario); and John L. Riley (1974-1981; Hudson Bay Lowlands, Clay Belt). Specialized research collections include North American Crataegus, and Ontario Carex, Orchidaceae, Amelanchier, Salicaceae, and Poaceae. There is also a small type collection.

Herbarium cabinet

Historical Collections

The collection contains several Victorian scrapbooks, including one prepared by Catherine Parr Traill in 1898 for her granddaughter. Another scrapbook herbarium contains specimens donated by the renowned British botanist, Joseph Dalton Hooker, including ones he collected while serving as assistant surgeon (and botanist) aboard the HMS Erebus on its circumnavigation of Antarctica in company with the HMS Terror, under the command of Sir James Clark Ross, 1839-1842. Other specimens from the Canadian Arctic were donated by participants in the searches for survivors of the doomed Franklin Expedition to the Northwest Passage.

Current Activities

Work began in 1985 to computerize the accessioning process so as to produce specimen labels and begin building a specimen database. Since that time various projects have enabled staff to increase the number of specimens databased to the point that now approximately 78,000 digital records are available. In addition to carrying on biosystematic research and documenting the flora of the province, the staff of the herbarium answer public enquiries about plants, and provide a limited identification service. ROM Botany staff also are involved with local naturalist organizations and science educators.

University Use

Graduate students at the University of Toronto whose research involves plants are encouraged to visit the herbarium, and to deposit voucher specimens from their research. In this way they will ensure that other researchers will have the best possible understanding of materials with which their work was carried out. The herbarium already houses extensive collections of this kind from archaeological, cytotaxonomic, embryological, ecological, palynological, and systematic studies. Loans of specimens from other herbaria are also arranged on behalf of graduate students and faculty of the university.

Location, Access, and Staff

The Green Plant Herbarium is located on the 2B Level of the ROM’s Louise Hawley Stone Curatorial Centre. Compact storage of the collection has provided space for herbarium staff and visitors to study and work with specimens, as well as to accommodate a substantial portion of the ROM Library’s collection of botanical books and journals.

Access to the Herbarium is by appointment, but arrangements can be made for greater access as needed. Please contact Deb Metsger (Collection Manager; or Tim Dickinson (Curator Emeritus) for more information.

This page is also available in Portuguese, courtesy of Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos: