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Cambridge University Herbarium

Botanical illustration

Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG) is a living collection of over 8,000 plant species from around the world.

The Garden occupies a 40 acre site, situated just outside Cambridge city centre. The Garden is a popular visitor attraction: it is open to the public year-round and runs a range of special events, garden tours and educational courses. At the same time, the Garden is a valuable resource for members of the University of Cambridge, being widely used for research and teaching in plant sciences, zoology, ecology and other fields.

The Garden as it appears today first opened its gates to the public in 1846. Its previous incarnation, founded in 1762, was a much smaller affair and was situated in central Cambridge (on what is now the New Museums Site). The impetus for moving and expanding the garden came from John Stevens Henslow, fourth Professor of Botany. He envisioned a much larger garden, designed for active botanical study - Henslow was particularly interested in variation between species - and with space to plant large tree species that were new to western science. Around the time that Henslow was planning the new garden, he was also conserving and expanding the Herbarium (it had previously suffered decades of neglect) and neither collection would exist as it does today without his significant efforts.

Since Henslow’s time, CUBG and Cambridge University Herbarium have remained closely associated. Both are part of the Department of Plant Sciences and have long been used in botanical teaching and research. During the 20th century, several Directors of the Botanic Garden also held the position of Herbarium Curator, strengthening links between the collections. CUBG researchers still actively take part in expeditions to survey plants around the world - most recently, to study tulips in Kyrgystan - and any specimens they collect and press are integrated into the Herbarium’s collection (with counterparts being left in the host country). Today, the Garden and Herbarium are phsyically as close as they have been for over a century - in 2011 the University Herbarium moved to a new location in the Sainsbury Laboratory, situated on Bateman Street, directly behind the CUBG cafe. What’s more, CUBG’s own herbarium, a collection of 14,000 specimens collected in the garden since 1842, is now held in the University Herbarium’s facility.

More information about CUBG can be found at