The Herbaria Basel result from decades-long collaborations between the University of Basel Herbarium (BAS) and the Basel Botanical Society Herbarium (BASBG). This collaboration was formalized in 2016 with the founding of the Herbaria Basel. Since, these two collections are housed in Bottmingen, just outside Basel, together with the Jany Renz Orchid Herbarium (RENZ). A new, purpose-built herbarium building close to the University Botanical Garden in the center of Basel is in development.
Early history of BAS
The Herbarium of the University of Basel (BAS) is the oldest collection of the Herbaria Basel and dates back to the late sixteenth century, when botany became a formal part of the curriculum of the University of Basel. Caspar Bauhin (1560-1624), student of Felix Platter (1536-1614), became the first professor for Botany and Anatomy at the University in 1589, following his botanical training in Basel, Montpellier and Italy. He collected herbarium specimens at least already in 1579, evidenced by plants collected in Montpellier. His herbarium formed the basis of his Catalogus plantarum circa Basileam (1622), one of the world's earliest local floras, and his Pinax theatri botanici (1623), a complete list of all known plant species including synonymy that remained decisively important until well in the 18th century and was a primary source for Linnaeus' Species Plantarum (1753).
The herbarium of Caspar Bauhin was handed down the generations within his family until the mid 18th century, when it was purchased by Werner de Lachenal (1736-1800, from 1776 Professor of Botany at the University of Basel), after mediation by Albrecht von Haller. Werner de Lachenal bequeathed his herbaria to the University. Thus, from 1800 onward, the herbaria of the main Basel botanists belong to the University of Basel.
Between 1800 and 1900, the University amassed multiple additional collections that August Binz (1870-1963) integrated into a single collection. Binz was the first formal Curator of the herbaria, prolific collector and a renowned florist; the later editions of his determination books are still in use today. The state of the herbaria until this time are detailed bei Binz in 1908 (Verh. Naturf. Ges. Basel 19(3):137-155). Until the formation of the Herbaria Basel in 2016, the herbarium of the University of Basel was housed at the Botanical Institute in Basel, Schönbeinstrasse 6.
Important collections of BAS
BAS contains a jointly organized collection (the "general herbarium"), as well as separate collections of individual persons (the "historic herbaria"). The oldest collection in the general herbarium is that of Carl Friedrich Hagenbach (1771-1849).
General herbarium, (19th-20th century)
Jointly, the following collectors contributed most to the ca. 250'000 specimens of BAS: G. Bernoulli, A. Binz, H. Christ, L. G. Courvoisier, C. Farron, C. F. Hagenbach, H. Huber, T. Makino, C. D. F. Meissner, R. Preiswerk, K. F. Sarasin, P. B. Sarasin, H. Schneider, W. P. Schimper, A. Thellung, J. J. Uebelin, K. Watanebe, D. Wolleb. The majority of these specimens are integrated in a single collection, divided by major plant group (lichens, mosses, ferns, gymnosperms, dicots s.l., monocots) organised alphabetically by family. Vascular plant specimens from Switzerland and neighboring regions are annotated by geographic region. The geographic scope of the herbarium is global with an emphasis on Switzerland and Central Europe.
The herbarium of Caspar Bauhin (1560-1624)
Caspar Bauhin is one of the founding fathers of scientific botany and decisively shaped its development in the early 17th century. His herbarium was started at least in 1579, when he visited Montpellier (F). About 2450 specimens remain of his herbarium, plus about some 650 labels of plants that A. Binz deemed necessary to discard. It is a loose-leaf herbarium of unmounted plants kept in its original folio paper, with illustrations added from various books. Labels are homogeneous with species names and some synonyms following Bauhin's Pinax (1623). Most specimens have an indication of provenance, be it a geographic name, his garden, or a correspondent. It is among the very few surviving 16th century herbaria worldwide.
The herbarium of Jacob Hagenbach (1595-1649)
Jakob Hagenbach (1595-1649) was a student of Caspar Bauhin and became Professor of Logic and Ethics at the University of Basel. He collected around Basel and on various trips throughout Switzerland, including alpine plants on an extensive journey in 1620 deep into the Bernese alps. His specimens are very carefully pressed, often include underground parts and provenances are almost always provided. About 850 specimens.
The herbarium of Werner de Lachenal (1736-1800)
Werner de Lachenal (1736-1800) was a professor of Anatomy and Botany at the University of Basel since 1776. He was widely respected as an outstanding scholar of the swiss flora. He corresponded extensively with Albrecht von Haller, with whom he exchanged plants and collected for (e.g. in 1760, to the Ticinese mountains in the south of Switzerland). Lachenal was preparing a new flora of the region of Basel, which was never published. His herbarium includes mostly plants from Switzerland, but as well many exotic plants from botanical gardens. Lachenal had integrated Bauhins herbarium with his, but kept the specimens separate. Binz seperated these herbaria during his revisions in the early 1900s.
The herbarium of Johannes Buxtorf (1736-1806)
Most importantly is the herbarium of Johannes Buxtorf (1736-1806). Buxtorf was a student of Zwinger and became Basel's chief medical doctor (Archiater), like his father. This loose-leaf herbarium consists of about 2000 specimens, of which a significant part was collected in Leiden, where he studied around 1760. What sets this collection apart is that almost all specimens document from whom they were received, and so it is a who-is-who of the scientific elite of 18th century northern Switzerland. It also contains several hundred specimens of Abraham Gagnebin (1707-1800), and various others (incl. J. Buxtorf, A. von Haller, W. Sherard, J. R. Zwinger). Moreover, it contains several hundred skillfully arranged, stunningly beautiful mounted specimens of unknown origin, dated to the first half of the 18th century.
Other 18th century herbaria
Various other historic collections of the 18th century are also kept at BAS. Among these are a small set of specimens ascribed to Johann Rudoph Stähelin (1724-1801), two editions of Johann Balthasar Erhart (1700-1756) Herbarium Vivum Completum and a Herbarium Vivum Portatile (with notes by W. de Lachenal), the Mieg Herbarium, and a diverse set of "pharmaceutical herbaria" of unknown origin.
Other associated collections
BAS also contains the seed collection of Claude Farron (former herbarium curator) and Saurer (head gardener of the botanical garden of the university) that contains ca. 60'000 specimens, with an associated herbarium of several thousand seedling specimens.
The historic collections of Bauhin, Hagenbach and Lachenal are imaged.
The herbarium of the Basel Botanical Society (BASBG)
The largest sub-collection of the Herbaria Basel is the herbarium of the Basel Botanical Society (BASBG), with close to 350'000 specimens. One of the primary goals of the Society when founded in 1952 was managing a collective herbarium. BASBG is a collection of private herbaria that are systematically organized according to the Englerian system (following Dala Torre & Harms). The geographic scope of the herbarium is Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and Turkey.
Its main contributors are W. Baumgartner, R. Bay, E. Berger, A. Binggeli, W. Blome, R. Engel, P. Güntert, M. Gyhr, R. Haller, F. Heinis, C. Heitz, A. Heitz-Weniger, A. Huber, A. Huber-Morath, H. Hürlimann, E. Issler, H. Kunz, R. Kunz-Anderegg, R. Leuschner, W. Lüdi, M. Nydegger, V. Rastetter, H. Reese, J. Renz, L. Rieber, W. Rüttimeyer, K. Schaub, M. Schmidt, C. Simon, E. Tschopp, H. Wirz, H. Zoller.
The Basel Botanical Society herbarium has an associated botanical library focusing on global plant determination literature.
BASBG is nearly comprehensively imaged and basic meta data is available for about 180'000 specimens (April 2021).
The orchid herbarium Jany Renz (RENZ)
Jany Renz (1907-1999) was a chemist, chief officer of pharmaceutical research at Sandoz AG in Basel, and a passionate student of orchids. A large portion of Renz' ca. 30'000 magnificent orchid specimens contain floral dissections. His specimens are unparalleled in quality of preparation and aesthetic presentation. The herbarium that emphasizes global orchid diversity was bequeathed to the university jointly with Jany Renz' excellent and complete orchid library. The herbarium has close ties to the private foundation "Swiss Orchid Foundation at the Herbarium Jany Renz" that coordinated the assembly of the World Orchid Iconography database.
RENZ is comprehensively digitized and integrated into the World Orchid Iconography database.