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Flora services cover just about everything relating to native and introduced plants in New Zealand. The ecology of plants forms large part of our research, and we are custodians of several nationally significant biological collections and databases.

Biodiversity refers to the diversity of native species (including genetic diversity), communities and ecosystems in the environment. The term also covers the complex environmental processes that affect the make up of communities, and the way in which communities affect their environment e.g., nutrient cycling, purifying water and air.

Effective restoration projects are not just about planting trees; the ultimate goal is to restore protect biodiversity processes.

Some of the biggest threats to both our natural heritage and export industries are introduced weeds. Our services include risk assessments, distributions and identifications.

Loan services

The Allan Herbarium (CHR) provides loans to bona fide researchers working at registered herbaria.

A description of the collections held at the Allan Herbarium is available and approximately 35% of the collection is databased and can be searched at the Systematics Collections Data web portal .

Users of this service should note that loans are subject to a set of conditions (see Loan Regulations for full details).  These include:

  • Requests must be made by the head of a registered herbarium
  • Destructive sampling and photography require prior approval that should be obtained when requesting a loan
  • Loans are made for 12 months.

Loans are also subject to New Zealand legislation, including the Protected Objects Act, the Biosecurity Act, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, and the Trade in Endangered Species Act.  These regulations impose limitations on what, where and how we can send specimens on loan.

  • The Biosecurity Act requires that an Import Permit accompanies all material entering New Zealand.  A copy of the Import Permit is available here (password required)
  • The NZNHN shipping standard, is a New Zealand Herbarium Network response to the ERMA (EPA) decision, and describes the packaging required to meet the ERMA Authority decision.
  • The ERMA (EPA) decision provides a set of controls for movement of specimens into New Zealand.

Plant identification and information

The Plant Identification and Information Service is available to members of the public, commercial organisations, and government organisations. This service is provided by the systematists and utilises a range of resources including the Allan Herbarium and international literature. If you wish to submit material for identification, please read the guidelines provided on how to collect and send plants for identification.

Guidelines: Collecting Plants for Identification

Selecting specimens to send

The specimens should represent as many features of the plants as possible including flowering and/or fruiting parts; these are very important to the identification process. For small herbaceous species, send the whole plant. However, for larger bulky herbaceous plants, select material from the flowers, stems, leaves and, if possible, roots. For woody plants, please include basal shoot with juvenile leaves, sucker shoots, bark where applicable, and material of any other special feature present, e.g. spines or prickles. Plus, of course, flowering and fruiting shoots.

The more complete the specimens are, the easier and more accurate the identification is likely to be. It may not be possible to identify non-flowering or non-fruiting plants with certainty.

Information we need with the specimens

  1. The locality and habitat should be described as accurately as possible. New Zealand Map grid references are especially useful.
  2. Name of the collector and date of collection.
  3. Remarks: it is important to give any details of the plant that may not be obvious at the receiving end: e.g. size and shape (particularly of trees) is often diagnostic. Flowers and fruit often deteriorate quickly, sometimes changing colour, so mention colour and any fragrance. If, for some reason, the specimen sent is known to be atypical, this should be noted (typical material should also be sent for comparison). Notes about frost-hardiness and time of flowering may be useful.

If the specimen represents a very rare species, or is a new record for the area from which it is sent, detailed information is especially important for the Herbarium's records.

Sending the specimens

  1. Fresh specimens
    The aim is to have the specimen arrive in as near as possible to the  condition in which it was collected, so time of travelling and method of packing are important. Air transport is usually faster.

    Ensure that the plants are not in transit during the weekend (there is no post to Landcare Research at Lincoln on Saturday or Sunday). Fresh specimens can be either sent in a plastic bag or between moist sheets of paper inside a plastic bag. Plastic bags are generally ideal for up to about two days in transit. If the transit period could be three or more days, package the plant in moist sheets between sheets of cardboard in a box, not in a plastic bag. The moisture should not be excessive as it will often seep through the whole package.Generally,the wetter the specimen, the more it will decompose if there is any delay, particularly in warm weather. Aquatic plants often travel badly in jars or plastic bags especially if muddy root systems are enclosed.Put them between damp cloth or paper. Packed in dry newspaper, succulent plants and will often stay fresh for weeks. Some plants drop their leaves or flowers (especially) after a day or so when enclosed in plastic. So, if two or more similar plants are being sent, they should be put in separate bags to avoid confusion.

  2. Dried specimens
    Where the time between collection and despatch is likely to be considerable,e.g. weeks, the plants should be dried first. Specimens are best pressed and dried between sheets of newspaper or blotting paper before sending.Examine them from time to time, and if necessary change the papers to prevent mould. A warm dry atmosphere is best. Keep the specimen flat under pressure or weights. Wilted or shrivelled material should not be pressed unless absolutely unavoidable.

  3. Labelling and addressing
    If more than one specimen is sent, a number or lettering system should be used to facilitate the reply. A copy should be retained by thesender because the Plant Identification Service does not return specimens unless  specifically requested.

Address the package to:

Plant Identification Service
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
Canterbury Agriculture & Science Centre
PO Box 69040
Lincoln 7640
New Zealand

Ph (03) 321 9999

Do not send the package to any particular person.

Costs of identification

General public

  • One-off plant identifications for the general public are free.

Commercial and agency users

Prices are excluding GST. Price per specimen unless indicated.

  • $250 per hour plus GST (minimum charge one hour).
  • Molecular sequences: $360, with each subsequent sample in the same test $200.
  • Additional costs may apply if the specimens need to be vouchered and accessioned.
  • An annual fixed fee is recommended if the service is used frequently.
  • Other quotations are supplied on request.

Diagnostics request form: Allan Herbarium (CHR)

Presence and distribution

This service provides a method to help determine whether a plant species is present in New Zealand. The service is often used by a company wishing to import plant material to meet biosecurity requirements. This service uses the All New Zealand Species Database, a wide range of literature sources, and the Allan Herbarium (other New Zealand herbaria may also be contacted if necessary).

Nomenclature check

Plant names can often be confusing. This is because the same plant may be known by different names, especially as our knowledge about the plants and their relationships with each other improves. Scientific names can also be confusing when different plants have accidentally been given the same name! This service answers questions about scientific plant names.

Examples of questions include:

  • Is this the most up-to-date name for this plant?
  • What other names has this species been called?
  • Could this name have been given to two different species?
  • Do these two names refer to the same species?

Much of this information is available on our website - Biota of New Zealand - however this Nomenclature Check service is available for a more in-depth check and is provided by the systematists of the Allan Herbarium.

Botanical surveys

We are able to offer presence-absence surveys of all plant groups, including non-vascular plants. Expertise in identification of non-vascular plant groups is limited in New Zealand, and it is difficult to find botanical consultants able to identify all groups in the flora. This is useful for people wanting to assess the botanical value of an area.

Plant identification workshops

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research offers plant identification workshops for biosecurity officers and weed control staff from regional councils, the Department of Conservation, and other interested parties. The aim of these workshops is to teach the basics of flowering plant identification, with an emphasis on the New Zealand naturalised (weedy) flora.

The workshop typically runs in early December (when lowland weed species are in flower). The course is taught in a training room at Lincoln equipped with dissecting microscopes and computers and plant material is provided to identify. Eight to twelve people can be accommodated and teaching is intensive, with several teachers for each workshop

Lucid interactive keys are highlighted in the course as they offer a more dynamic and easier way to key out plants than traditional floras. However, an introduction is also given to using the Flora of New Zealand series. The workshop emphasis is typically on the naturalised flora, but the skills learnt also apply to the native flora and we can cater to those wishing to identify particular plant groups. Trainees are taught about characters and character states and how to use these to correctly identify plants.

These plant identification workshops are scheduled annually according to demand.

Key contact