Vascular plants are plants with vessels for water circulation. This collection is known all over the world. It is particularly renowned for its large number of preserved type specimens (at least 300,000).
This collection contains around 6 million specimens, mainly in the form of herbarium boards but also dried fruits and seeds (Carpothèque). It has many specimens from France and Europe, as well as former French colonies and France’s current overseas territories. It is a “general herbarium”, that is, a group of collections of various origins (donations, bequests, exchanges between institutions) incorporated into a group organised according to scientific classification: ferns and lycophytes, Spermaphytes (or Phanerogams) including Gymnosperms (conifers and closely connected plants) and Angiosperms (flowering plants). The latter make up over three-quarters of the Herbarium’s total volume. Their classification was thoroughly overhauled in 2012, as part of the renovation project. They are divided into 413 families whose organisation reflects recent progress made thanks to the work of the international group APG (Angiosperm Phylogenetic Group).
The herbarium boards are all digitised, making up a “virtual herbarium” that can be consulted online, with the option to run automated searches by various criteria such as harvest locality or harvester name.
Based on the herbarium of Sébastien Vaillant (1669-1722), the collection has expanded over time, in particular thanks to donations and deposits. These include the collections of Drake del Castillo (1855-1904) and E. Cosson (1819-1889), who respectively joined the Muséum’s collection in 1904 and 1889. In the 19th century, it benefited from the enthusiasm of the plant exchange societies, enabling us to document French flora at the start of the industrial area.
The collections support many research projects, particularly in the field of taxonomy, aiming to define, name and describe the species, and in phylogenetic systematics to improve our knowledge of the classification and evolution of plants. The plants are studied on the basis of their morphological, anatomical and molecular aspects. The collection is also used as a reference tool for expert appraisal (help for non-specialists identifying plants, during inventories for example), and the information shown on the labels accompanying each specimen is a source of data for other scientific or historical disciplines (e.g. biology, ecology, biogeography and ethnology, with for example the study of the impact of climate change on species’ flowering date and natural range).
Every day, some twenty researchers at the Muséum work on these collections, and each year over 200 researchers from the international community come to the National Herbarium to examine the specimens. New specimens are regularly added to the collections (around 10,000 specimens per year) thanks to the botanists’ scientific missions in the field, and donations from other Herbaria.
The vascular plants are the responsibility of 11 heads of conservation who, as well as their own studies of these collections, each manage around 550,000 specimens. Cécile Aupic, Jacques Florence, Myriam Gaudeul, Thomas Haevermans, Sovanmoly Hul, Florian Jabbour, Marc Jeanson, Marc Pignal, Odile Poncy, Germinal Rouhan and Corinne Sarthou.