The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium holds approximately 7.8 million dried plant and fungal collections. These invaluable specimens document the foundations of ecosystems, hold a permanent record of Earth’s plant and fungal life, document the uses of plants, and form the raw data used in research ranging from international collaborations addressing issues of biodiversity, conservation, and evolution, to citizen scientists and high school student science fair projects.

The Steere herbarium is one of the most frequently used of the approximately 3400 herbaria in the world. The Herbarium is consulted in the nearly 200 research projects of Garden scientists and students, and an average of 150 visitors travel to New York City each year to use the collection, spending on average 1200 person-days per year. Additionally, 30,000 to 50,000 specimens are loaned annually to scientists at other institutions.

An extensive history of the Herbarium can be found in the following articles: Holmgren, P. K., J.A. Kallunki & B.M. Thiers. 1996. A short description of the collections of The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium (NY). Brittonia 48: 285-296; and Pace, M.C., N. Tarnowsky, E.D. Bloch, A. Weiss, C. Zimmermann, and B.M. Thiers. 2016. An updated description of the collections and history of The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium (NY): 1995–2015. Brittonia 68(3): 317–323.

Acquisition policy

The NYBG Herbarium houses collections that represent vascular and non-vascular plants and fungi from all countries and biomes throughout the world. Geographic areas of particular interest include: North America; Mexico and Central America; the Caribbean; South America; southeast Asia; Oceania / the Pacific; Australia (fungi); and the polar regions (lichens & bryophytes).

Families or groups of particular interest include:  

  • Bryophytes: Hepaticae, Pleurocarpus mosses
  • Fungi: Agaricales, Boletales
  • Lichens: all
  • Algae: Green algae (particularly Characeae)
  • Vascular Plants: Gymnosperms, Pteridophytes, Actinidiaceae, Apiaceae, Anacardiaceae, Araliaceae, Arecaceae, Aristolochiaceae, Asteraceae, Burseraceae, Cactaceae, Clusiaceae, Cyperaceae, Ericaceae, Fabaceae, Lecythidaceae, Malvaceae, Melastomataceae, Ochnaceae, Orchidaceae, Orobanchaceae, Phrymaceae, Picramniaceae, Pittosporaceae, Plantaginaceae, Polygonaceae, Rubiaceae, Rutaceae, Sapotaceae, Sarraceniaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Simaroubaceae, Solanaceae, Symplocaceae, Xyridaceae

These areas reflect the long-standing focus of NYBG’s research program and plant groups studied by past and present staff. There is no charge to donors of specimens for deposit in the NYBG Herbarium.

The Herbarium obtains specimens via staff collections, exchange of duplicates with other herbaria, adoption of orphaned herbaria, and occasionally through purchases or gifts. The Herbarium endeavors to accession high-quality specimens primarily for systematic and floristic research, and also for the study of ethnobotany, ecology, conservation, and biogeography. Quality is assured by encouraging the staff to collect good, fertile specimens and by maintaining exchange agreements with herbaria that provide well prepared and labeled, fertile specimens from areas of scientific interest to NYBG.

Future acquisitions will concentrate on:

  1. specimens from temperate and tropical America and other areas in which an NYBG staff member is working actively;
  2. specimens of taxonomic groups, worldwide, studied by NYBG staff members;
  3. worldwide reference specimens of all plant and fungal groups.


Exchanges of specimens with other herbaria will conform to the concentrations mentioned above, and in concordance with international agreements concerning biodiversity. Other acquisitions (e.g., orphaned herbaria, purchases) will also conform to these concentrations, and any duplicate specimens acquired in orphaned herbaria will be dispersed to other interested herbaria.

Loan Policy

Loans of specimens are made to recognized herbaria upon approval of the request by the Director of the Herbarium and/or a scientist if the request is for material within the scientist’s area of research interest. Specimens are not sent on loan to individuals without an institutional affiliation. NYBG has never charged for loans.  See our Loans page for more details.

Access to collections

The Herbarium is open to any visitor, professional or amateur, with a legitimate reason to consult the collections. All visitors check in with, and are oriented by, a member of the Herbarium staff. There are no charges for on-site study of the collections by an individual. See our Visitors page for more details.  

Pest management

All specimens are frozen at -40 degrees C for at least 48 hours before using them in the Herbarium to reduce the possibility of introducing insect pests. Additionally, no food or drink is allowed in the herbarium. The fungal collections, which are especially susceptible to infestation, are kept in a separate room in the herbarium that is maintained at 50 degrees and 50% relative humidity.

Arrangement of the collections

Families are arranged in the Englerian sequence, modified to reflect the families recognized by Cronquist, 1988; currently, the Herbarium is recurating the collection to conform to the families recognized by APG IV. Within each family, genera are sorted alphabetically; each genus is sorted into geographical regions in color-coded folders; and within geographic regions the species are sorted alphabetically, with unidentified specimens at the end of each category. Boxes of separate parts, including fruits, are filed at the end of each family. Type specimens are arranged in a similar fashion but in a separate sequence, located on the 3rd floor.

Taxa listed on CITES Appendices

The Herbarium makes every attempt to follow the resolution regarding herbarium specimens published as part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). All specimens of species listed on any of the CITES Appendices are specially labeled to alert users that special rules govern their transport and use. Loan of specimens of CITES listed taxa are sent only to herbaria registered with CITES, and each specimen sent is tracked individually. Only Virtual Herbarium loans of CITES listed taxa are available for borrowers at non-registered herbaria. The Herbarium accepts new international collections of CITES regulated material only from other CITES registered institutions.