The Rapinat Herbarium (RHT is the international acronym), is a university College Herbarium organized since 1967 and named after Fr. A. Rapinat S J (1892-1959) who pioneered teaching of Plant Science in St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirappalli and whose collections formed the nucleus of the herbarium. The Founder Director of RHT is Late Fr Dr K M Matthew S J (1930-2004) and Fr Dr S John Britto, S J is now the Director.
It is a recognized and independent Research Institution approved by the Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli to undertake research projects and degrees leading to M.Phil and Ph.D. in Molecular Systematics. The Applied Research wing of RHT has well established laboratories for tissue culture, microbiology molecular systematics and Bioinformatics.
The outline of the Indian Peninsula indicates both the geographical situation of the institution and the principal area to be studied. RHT (Rapinat Herbarium, Tiruchirappalli) is our international acronym. The name Rapinat is at once a tribute and an ideal. The Sacred Lotus, the national flower at the centre, stands for the Indian flora that awaits study. The rays of the rising sun emanating from the Louts represents new knowledge of plants to be generated in this institution. The Latin Floreat (‘Let it flower forth’) is a cryptic wish, in the classical language of the natural sciences, of continued creative work here after our motto: ‘Real research takes everything that the ablest of us can deliver. It is not a union schedule of 40 hours a week but a sweating proposition of 18 hours a day’.
Fr. Alfred. Rapinat SJ (1892-1959) who pioneered the teaching of natural sciences in this College (started in 1844) and whose collections formed the nucleus of the herbarium. Rapinat Herbarium acknowledges his pioneering efforts. Before the graduate course in Botany was started (B.A. in 1937, and B.Sc. in 1953), botany was taught as one subject for the Intermediate course (Group II) from early this century. Fr. Gombert’s [1910 (? 1912)-1915] is the earliest known tenure. Fr. Rapinat held the post temporarily during 1919-22, and finally took over in 1926. From then on there was steady work that eventually led to the foundations for the Rapinat Herbarium.
Rapinat Herbarium Today
Since 2004 the Rapinat Herbarium and The Anglade Institute have recast and listed new priorities as given below. These developments were sequel to a plethora of major research projects with the new Director Dr. S. John Britto SJ who assumed directorship after the 16 sudden demise of founder director Fr. K. M. Matthew (16th April 2004). The recent innovations include Digital herbarium, Molecular Systematics, Biotechnology, together with Ethnobotany and Pharmacology.
* To make comprehensive floristic investigation of Southern Peninsular India in general and Tamil Nadu State in particular.
* To undertake Revision and Monography of select taxa from the perspective of Classical and Molecular Systematics.
* To promote multidisciplinary research such as systematics, horticultural, phytochemical and molecular and microbiological aspects.
* To develop and implement practical ex situ conservation schemes for Peninsular RET and endemic plant species.
* To study and conserve the tropical plant genetic resources and develop strategies for their sustainable use and eco restoration.
* To create environmental awareness among all sections of the public especially the youth.
* To develop location oriented production technologies utilizing local resources.
* RHT is unique in having an environment cum research base in Shenbaganur, Kodaikanal of the Palni Hills, an eastern offshoot of the Western ghats, one of the 25 hot spots.
* The herbarium in RHT has over 250,000 collections. The associated Library has carefully chosen reference books (5000 volumes) and over 90 periodicals, including Key international ones. A conservatory for living plants with Glass House is a novelty. Other features are a consultation herbarium or students’ herbarium and with related services such as consultancy, latinization of description of new taxa, and reviewing of papers for national and international journals.
* An enduring value of the collections in the herbarium is that they are the source material for future reach on local plants, especially plant diversity and truly the take-off base for applied research.
* RHT has entered into international circulation of Duplicate materials with the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, Leiden, Arnold Arboretum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, BSI, Calcutta etc. This wide dissemination of materials ensures that monographers take into account Indian materials.
* The Tamil Nadu State Government has duly recognized and mentioned the valuable collections of RHT in its text books.
* Thanks to the exchange of publications virtually with every continent, the coverage of world Floras in our Library is adequate. Besides, there are more than 8000 nos. of Reprints.
* Other valuable services include Open days for the benefit of students of schools and Colleges, and orientation for Teachers on recent trends in systematics.
Whereas the collections are used mostly by botanists, the library is a far more widely utilized facility; Periodicals (1632 volumes under 62 titles). The relatively comprehensive coverage, often with backnumbers, is a valued facility. (b) Books) (2400) volumes). thanks to exchange of publications virtually with every continent, the coverage of Floras is adequate. (c) Reprints (8000 nos.). This select collection, often photocopies of scarce items, is an important asset.
(i) Open Days The aim is to demonstrate, for the benefit of students of local H.S. Schools and Colleges, especially of plant sciences, in an untechnical way, the research procedures of the herbarium: Field organization, tools, plant processing, mounting and accessioning, illustration, publication, proof-reading, etc. Sure enough, these Open Days are much in demand. (ii) M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes Carefully screened applicants are admitted to these courses, whose dedication ahs been widely acknowledged. (iii) Staff Orientation programmes Teachers of Systematic Botany of the various Colleges are given a day’s demonstration-cum-tution with a view to updating their touch with the subject. At times amusing, when our scholars discovered that their former teachers were much in need of updating! (iv) Consultancy, Queries, Refereeing, Book Reviews, Latinization As a specialized centre, many requests come in which we try to help, based on the principle that we do not catch fish and give away, but teach people how to catch fish! this summarizes our basic philosophy: training.