Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh (RBGE)

Collections & Expertise

RBGE has the second largest collection of living plant species in Europe, together with an extensive collection of preserved plant and fungal material. RBGE’s technical strengths in vascular and cryptogamic plants, and fungi complement those at NHM and RBGK. Access will be provided to herbarium collections of over 2 million plant and fungal specimens.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Herbarium 50,000 type specimens
Preserved collection strong in fungi including in rust fungi
Geographical and taxonomic focus includes Europe, China and the Himalaya, SW and SE Asia, temperate N & S America and Brazil
Legume molecular systematics
Vascular plant developmental genetics
Systematics of Zingiberaceae, Gesneriaceae and Begonia
Cryptogamic plant and fungal expertise
Living collection 66,500 plants of over 15,500 species
Library Over 80,00 bookd and 4,000 journal titles
Specialises in systematic botany and has material on amenity horticulture; garden history and design; landscaping; conservation and botanical illustration
Large collection of national and regional floras. The section on flowering and non-flowering plant systematics is of international importance

Supporting Facilities and Services

Includes the new Field Emission Gun SEM, Cytogenetic and Molecular Laboratories – offering the latest technology to facilitate phylogenetic and population genetic research. This includes the option for cytological study, or extraction and analysis of DNA using the extensive living collections.

Information Technology and Access

All of the living collections and 10% herbarium, including an increasing number of type specimens, are databased in BGBASE. The living collections database can be searched via the web. RBGE have developed taxonomic databases for the floras of Bhutan, Nepal and Arabia, and the families Rosaceae, Umbelliferae and Zingiberaceae.

Research supported by the infrastructure

At RBGE research reflects the expertise of the staff and the richness of the living and herbarium collections, the library and archives. The three major strategic objectives for research are:

  • Conserving plant biodiversity in the face of global environmental change and mass extinction
  • Provision of baseline taxonomic/botanical data as a foundation science
  • Understanding the evolutionary processes that have given rise to the world's botanical diversity

There are four research programmes: Major Floras - floristic studies of botanically important regions in Asia and the development of innovative bioinformatics methods of dissemination of floristic information to a range of end-users, including other taxonomists, ecologists and conservationists, and especially national governments to assist them in meeting targets derived from the CBD. Tropical Diversity - biodiversity in the tropics, concentrating on widely distributed and species-rich genera and high priority conservation areas, and elucidation of the evolutionary processes giving rise to this biodiversity. Cryptogamic Plants and Fungi - biodiversity of cryptogamic plants and fungi, exploration of the evolutionary processes giving rise to this biodiversity, and assessment of threats and development of strategies for conservation. Genetics and Conservation – elucidatation of population genetic processes underlying the evolution of plant biodiversity in high conservation priority groups and development of practical strategies to contribute towards their conservation.

Recent highlights

Major Floras: Ethnoflora of the Soqotran Archipeleago – linking the ethnobotanical knowledge of the people of the Soqotran Archipelago with descriptions of the botanical diversity of the region; Prometheus II: capturing and relating character concept definitions in plant taxonomy.

Tropical Diversity: Gesneriaceae: A major research project encompasses taxonomy, systematics, biogeography, cytogenetics, population genetic and evolution and developmental studies in this family, in collaboration with the University of Vienna; Monographic research on families and genera from SE Asia in collaboration with Flora Malesiana. Genetics and Conservation: Conservation biology, taxonomy, ecology and genetics of Scottish and European plants; International conifer conservation programme. Cryptogamic Plants and Fungi: Development of new species concepts of diatoms with Universities of Gent and Athens; Molecular and morphological phylogeny of diatoms with Gent, Bremerhaven and Naples; Molecular and morphological phylogeny of liverworts with University of; Helsinki; Taxonomy, ecology and conservation of British lichens; Illustrated field guide of European rust fungi.