Beaty Biodiversity Museum
About the Herbarium

The University of British Columbia Herbarium is the largest in Canada west of Ottawa, and is home to over half a million plant specimens from around the world. This collection is critical to the identification, monitoring, and conservation of plant biodiversity in British Columbia, and is an important resource for education and scientific research.

The UBC Herbarium has five major collections: vascular plants (flowering plants, conifers, ferns, and their relatives); bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts); macroscopic algae (mostly seaweeds); lichens; and fungi.

In addition to the world's largest collection of BC plants, our internationally recognized bryophyte collection is the largest in Canada. We also have important collections of Pacific algae, fungi, Hawaiian plants and tropical prayer plants.

Microcladia coulteri, Sea Lace
Microcladia coulteri, or Sea Lace, from the Algal collection

storage cabinet
The fireproof cabinet of type specimens mounted on archival paper


A Public Resource
We provide learning resources for University students and the community, through classes, student research projects, public workshops, symposia, herbarium tours, and online tools.

Plant Identification
Ecological consultants, conservation managers, agriculturists, archaeologists, police, government agencies, and the general public use our specimens to identify plant species and determine their distributions.
Our specimens have been used to identify everything from a rare weed infesting overgrazed fields on Pender Island to a native grass causing cyanide poisoning of cattle in the Fraser Valley.

Scientific Research
Specimens from the UBC Herbarium are used by researchers around the world, and contribute to numerous publications. Our specimens have been used to study DNA, species variation, plant chemistry, and even to analyze air pollution in the Fraser Valley over time by extracting heavy metals from moss specimens.

Herbarium specimens are primarily used to study the relationships among plants and to describe and document new plant species and changes in the classification or naming of plants.

Conservation biologists use herbarium specimens to determine the ecology and distribution of rare plant species, and to learn how to identify species that are not often seen in the wild. Ecologists use the same kinds of information to document the spread and changing distribution of invasive species.


British Columbia is Canada's most biologically diverse province, with 70% of the nation's vascular plants and moss species occurring here in our own backyard. At the same time, plant biodiversity is threatened globally with human population growth and habitat loss, with many species now facing the possibility of extinction.

It is now more critical than ever to document and preserve plant biodiversity. By providing material for scientific research and conservation initiatives, the UBC Herbarium plays a key role in our continuing quest to find new and better ways to protect the world's botanical resources.

As an important tool in education, for both university students and the public, the UBC Herbarium also helps increase our understanding and appreciation for the world of plants, helping to foster a sense of responsibility and environmental stewardship.


© Beaty Biodiversity Museum - UBC