The plant collections comprise 45,000 specimens consisting of a small collection of fungi and non-vascular plants, and a much large herbarium of vascular plants. This is the 5th largest botanical collection in Scotland.
There are 653 specimens of fungi collected in Perthshire. Many were collected by Charles McIntosh (1839-1922) from around Inver & Dunkeld. Charles McIntosh was the local postman and correspondent of Beatrix Potter. He was also interested in mosses and fungi. He discovered thirteen species of fungi new to Britain and four new to science. The collection includes the type specimen of a micro-fungus Ombrophila megalospora, one of his new discoveries. McIntosh bequeathed his 24 fungi watercolours by Beatrix Potter to the Perth Museum & Art Gallery collection in 1922.
There are 700 specimens of lichens, 200 specimens of seaweeds and charophytes (stoneworts). The charophytes were mostly collected in Perthshire and include a possible type of Chara fragilis var. sturrockii.
The Emslie Dallas (1809-1879) collection of diatoms contains about 600 specimens and incorporates material given by Richard Greville that may have isotype status.
The moss collection has 2,159 specimens which were collected in Perthshire from 1853-1910. The principal collector was Robert Meldrum (1858-1933), a teacher who studied mosses. This collection complements his much larger collection at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.
The vascular plants are housed in a number of named herbaria.
The “Perthshire” herbarium is a significant resource of voucher specimens for Perthshire on which the published “Flora of Perthshire” is based. This is the largest collection of Perthshire plants in the world. The flora of Perthshire has been studied since 1790 at classic sites for rare mountain plants such as Ben Lawers. The herbarium contains 289 specimens from this site alone, as well as plants now extinct in Britain. This includes taxa collected in Perthshire that are now extinct in the county and taxa that have become more restricted in their distribution.
The “Perthshire” herbarium contains 12,931 specimens collected in the three Perthshire vice-counties. They were collected from 1810 to 2001, with the main period of collecting being 1868-1893 by Francis Buchanan White (1842-1894) and other members of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science, in preparation for the “Flora of Perthshire” which was published posthumously in 1898. Buchanan White contributed 7,266 specimens to this collection, which includes a specimen of Cochlearia micacea (Mountain Scurvygrass) that may have type status.
The “Balfour” herbarium contains about 14,000 specimens of which approximately 50% are from Scotland, 25% from England, and the final 25% from overseas, including France, Italy, Switzerland, India, USA and Australia. The specimens were collected from 1765-1873, with the main period of collecting being 1821-1862. The collection was presented to the Literary & Antiquarian Society of Perth in 1880 and came from the “botany classroom” of the University of Edinburgh, at the Botanic Garden, where it was used as a teaching collection.
It contains notable eighteenth century specimens. The oldest is dated 1765, and collectors include two German botanists and physicians, Albrecht Roth (1757-1834) and Paul Giseke (1741-1796). Giseke was a student of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of modern taxonomy and two of the Perth specimens from Giseke’s collection have annotations suggesting they were identified by Linnaeus.
The “Non-Perthshire” herbarium contains 6,000 specimens from Britain and Europe and includes the type specimen of Pteridium aquilinum ssp atlanticum .
The “Drummond-Hay” Herbarium comprises 2,123 specimens of British plants, mainly from Perthshire. Most were collected or acquired by Colonel Henry Maurice Drummond-Hay (1814-1896), army officer and naturalist, during the period 1865-1870. Later additions to the collection are by Charles Geikie Matthew (1862-1936), naval surgeon & botanist who curated the collection in the 1920s.
The “Buchanan White” Willow Herbarium contains 2,600 specimens of Willows (Salix) collected in Perthshire, other parts of Scotland and Britain. Buchanan White was a willow specialist and in 1889 published a “Revision of British Willows”. He described a number of new willow hybrids. The type specimens for these such as Salix x saxetana are in the collection.
There are also a number of small collection and exsiccata such as “Fungi Britannici Exsiccati”, distributed by Mordecai Cooke (1825-1914). One unusual item is the “Flora of the North Pole”. This is a pocket book containing plant specimens collected by Dr Allan McLaren, assistant surgeon on HMS Hecla during Captain Parry’s Second Arctic Voyage to discover a northwest passage in 1821-1823.
The botanical collections are a significant source of historic records for floras and atlases and have been cited in the “Checklist of the Plants of Perthshire” (1992), “Wildflowers in Fife and Kinross” (2002) and the “Atlas of British & Irish Brambles” (2004). They have also been well used by researchers, either borrowing specimens or extracting data for research. Specimens are also regularly consulted by local botanists to confirm identifications.