Collections and Research

Collections 

University of Leicester Herbarium (LTR)

The University of Leicester herbarium (LTR) was founded in 1945 by Professor TG Tutin. It began with his own collections and those of the first curator, EK Horwood, together with gifts from such institutions as Kew, Vienna, Geneva and Cambridge. Donations from private individuals were also a significant part of the early collection, and there is material from ND Simpson, JE Lousley, CE Hubbard and EC Wallace. By 1953 the herbarium was estimated to hold approximately 26,000 specimens, and by 1978 the total number was believed to be about 102,000. In 1992 there were an estimated 120,000 specimens.

Scope and Organisation

The herbarium specialises in vascular plants from the British Isles, Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Collections are arranged mostly according to Flora Europaea, the sequence and circumscription of families being that of Melchior in Engler & Diels, Syllabus der Pflanzenfamilien, 12th ed., 1964.

Important Collectors and Collections

Voucher specimens for a number of systematic and floristic studies of the British and European flora are deposited in LTR. They include:

  • Gornall RJ and Bailey JP. A cytological catalogue of the British and Irish flora. BSBI Database, Leicester
  • Polunin O. (1969). Flowers of Europe
  • Polunin O and Smythies BE. (1973). Flowers of south-west Europe
  • Polunin O and Walters M. (1985). A guide to the vegetation of Britain and Europe. Oxford
  • Roles SJ. (1957-1965). Flora of the British Isles. Illustrations. Vols 1-4. Cambridge
  • Tutin TG. (1980). Umbellifers of the British Isles. London

Research

A botanic garden is distinguished from all other types of garden or park by engaging in scientific research and education. These academic roles date back to mid-16th century Italy, where the monasteries established gardens specifically designed to provide facilities for teaching and research on medicinal plants.

At Leicester, botanical research has been carried out since 1921, when the forerunner of the University (the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College) was founded. Use of the Garden for research purposes, however, dates primarily from 1947 when it transferred from its former University Road site to the present one in Oadby.

Initiated by the late Professor Tom Tutin, the main research focus at the Botanic Garden has been on floristics (cataloguing and describing the species in a geographical region) and taxonomy (classification). The School of Biological Sciences and the Botanic Garden have a long tradition in these areas and have developed an international reputation for their work, as is evidenced by the publications shown here.

Such floristic and taxonomic studies contribute to the ongoing international effort to document the plant diversity of the world and answer those most basic of questions: "How many plant species are there, where do they grow and what are their evolutionary relationships?" Reliable answers to these and related questions to do with speciation and gene flow are only now beginning to emerge, partly as a result of the work conducted here at Leicester with the advent of modern techniques of DNA analysis.