RHT Collections

In the beginning two areas of maximum floristic works are the Tamilnadu plains and the Palni Hills; the Sirumalais (Dindigul District, Tamilnadu) and Kurseong (Darjeeling Himalayas) come a close second. After 2004, the districts of Tamilnadu above river Cauvery also received attention. Regarding overseas collections two thirds of the British plants are represented in RHT, along with smaller collections from the Continent, Middle East, Japan and the Americas. Besides the main herbarium consisting of specimens mounted on 42 x 28 cm boards (no glue !) along with comprehensive labels, grouped together inside species and genus folders, and arranged after the modified Bentham & Hooker sequence followed in the Kew Herbarium the following supplementary collections [a: pickled flowers; b: large fruits in jars; c: wood (30 m long pieces); d: bark; e: transparencies and / or photographs] form an integral part of the herbarium. The field books, an indispensable accompaniment of the collections, are bound and carefully preserved. There is also an Accession Register for all the specimens as a ready inventory for all the collections.

A. Flowering Plants
1. Pre-1948, mostly from the Palni Hills and from around Tiruchirapalli, made by Fr. Rapinat. Herbarium holdings in 1948

Groups 1948 1971
Flowering Plants 5,044 16,301
Gymnosperms 93
Ferns 52 538
Bryophytes 340 1,167
Lichens 146 166
Fungi 124 232
Algae 31
TOTAL 5,706 18,528

2. Sirumalais by Fr. J.Pallithanam (P.M. Joseph) during 1955-60 (Nos. 1-6475). This was the matter of his doctoral thesis entitled “Systematic Studies on the Flora of the Sirumalai Hills” submitted to the University of Bombay (1962). 5335 sheets from among his over 10,000 collections, but representing all the species, have been brought by me in 1979 from Goa where the author had been on a University teaching assignment during 1963-80 (83-86). These two collections are supplemented by a set of 1320 unpublished Icones under the following authorships: Rapinat (1021), Pallithanam (15), Wafflart (119) and (?) Gombert (30).

3. Matthew, K.M. (‘Personal’ series,) Nos. 1-18,874 as detailed below: Table 2 detailing the collections under K.M. Matthew’s personal (KMM) series 9as opposed to the RHT Institutional series) during 1954-91.

Field Nos.(KMM) Year Area
1-940 1954-57 Palani Hills
941-1421 1958-59 Tamil Nadu plains
1422-2799 1960-62 Palni hills: exotic flora
2800-7354 1962-65 Himalayas (Kurseong)
7355-18874 1966-91 Miscellaneous, not listed under the RHT
institutional series below, as also from outside India

4. The (Tamilnadu) Carnatic Flora Project (55: 45-72; 61: 1967-72 & 68: 900), that assembled a total 30712 collections from the districts of Tiruchirappalli, Salem, Dharmapuri and South Arcot from 628 field days during 1975-83 (1988) under the RHT (institutional) series 1-30, 712. Drs. S. John Britto and Rani Vajravelu were doctoral scholars in the project.

5. The Flora of the Palni Hills (1984-91) Project accumulated another 14728 collections under the same institutional series (RHT) 40,001-54,728), Drs. N. Rajendran, M. Charles and K.T. Mathew were doctoral students in the project.

6. Massive collections were made from North Tamilnadu by Dr. S John Britto SJ as and when new Research Projects were sanctioned by Government of India, New Delhi.


B: Lower Groups
Among the Thallophytes and Bryophytes, there are some historically important collections. In the words of Fr. G. Foreau, the most prolific collector: “…the exploratory work (Mosses) was initiated by A. Velle, G. Roine and myself, all then resident at Shembaganur. The collections were identified by M. Cardot, H.N. Dixon and R. Potier de la Varde. Among threse Mosses, many were new to science. These hitherto undescribed Mosses, consisting of 4 genera, 95 species and 15 varieties were described by Potier de la Varde during 1922-28 (90-95), and Dixon & Potier de la Varde in 1927 and 1930 (4-5). G. Foreau published, in 1930, a conspectus of the Mosses for the then Presidency for Madras, bringing together all the findings of the five-man team just mentioned”. Three decades later, in 1961, Fr. Foreau published a resume of all his collections from the Palni Hills (7), and in 1964, a supplementary paper on the collections from outside the Palnis: Courtallam, Mundanthurai, Kumili, Sirumalais, Madras and as far as Mangalore (Kankanady), bringing together the enumeration to an impressive 424 species! I studied the original collections deposited both in London (BM) and Paris(P), taking with me the home duplicates for comparison and verification, based on which a comprehensive documentation paper has been published as an aid to future research. Several collections of Mosses from Europe are at hand: from Spain by P. Hermentier (1919) made during vacations; from France by Fr. Foreau during furlough, and van den Broeck.

Fr. Foreau’s name has been so intimately associated with Mosses that his work in other groups has been overlooked. Here are the main headings: Algae (9-12): P. Fremy, who studied the algal collections, concludes: “The collections of Fr. Foreau are an exceptional contribution to the knowledge of the Cyanophyceae of south India; in fact, they consist of 31 species, varieties or forms not so far known for the region. Of these, 15 species, varieties or forms are here described as new to science”. Mushrooms and other Fungi: It is known that Fr. Foreau collected extensively in this group, but no trace, not even a checklist, is known. Lichens: Fr. Foreau had sent his collections to Moreau, a French lichenologist, who named the collections, describing some novelties (82). The colletions of Hepatics (Fr. Rapinat and Fr. Foreau) are referred to in a paper by Chopra but not all the collections are available. (5) Ferns: The historical collection, of the series just described (19: 68-69; 89: 14) cannot be traced. The present holdings belong to more recent collections. E. Himalayas (Kurseong); Under the (Tamilnadu) Carnatic Flora Project, Ferns too had been collected.

The Palni Hills: (i) V.S. Manickam, Nos. 1-1021, which formed the matter of his doctoral thesis entitled “Studies on the Ecology and Cytotaxonomy of the Fern Flora of the palni Hills (South India)” submitted to the University of Kerala (1975); (ii) The Flora of the palni Hills Project (1984-91), under which Ferns, too had been collected: RHT ( institutional) Nos. 40,001-54, 728; (iii) the Ferns of the Western Ghats project (V.S. Manickam & K.M. Matthew, 1984-87): RHT (institutional ) Nos. 31,001-35,060. Sauliere’s checklist includes references to Lichens, Hepatics, Moss and Ferns.

In addition to the main herbarium and the supplementary collections already mentioned, three other items deserve mention: (a) Students’ Herbarium; (b) Economic Botany Museum; (c) Distribution of duplicate specimens. (a) Students’ Herbarium.


(b) Economic Botany Museum Another popular section which non-specialists find useful and, together with the library, is an extremely important facility.


(c) Duplicate materials We ensure that our collections enter into international circulation; Kew, Leiden, Aarhus, Arnold Arboretum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and Calcutta, in addition to numerous monographers, possess our specimens. This wide dissemination of materials ensures that monographers take into account Indian materials, a situation that does not widely obtain.