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  • Introduction
  • Arboretum
  • DNA Repository
  • Bromeliarium
  • Entomological
  • Ethnobotany
  • Fungi
  • Herbarium
  • Seeds
  • Xylotheque
  • Introduction

    Botanical Gardens are institutions aimed at research, plant conservation, and education. Considered living museums, their collections provide a knowledge on biodiversity and on the importance of plants for the life on the planet.

    Nowadays there are around 33 thousand endangered plant species or in danger of loss of genetic diversity, with over 2,500 botanical gardens and arboretums in the world. Bearing this in mind, the botanical gardens were asked to implement the Global Strategy on Plant Conservation and to elaborate projects towards the conservation of plants and to attract the people’s attention by means of adequate educational programs, emphasizing the preservation of the genetic diversity and the sustainable development. In this context, the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden has the mission of “promoting, creating and disseminating the training and the technical and scientific research on the flower resources in Brazil, aiming at the knowledge and the biodiversity conservation” as well as maintaining the scientific collections under its responsibility.

    The collections of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden are built by means of many different actions. The researchers travel to the natural environment to collect plant samples. The branches with flowers are dried in a press to create the exsiccatae, the components of the herbarium.  Fruits, seeds, and parts of leaves are also collected, which are placed in bags with silica and processed by the DNA Laboratory team. When possible, the researchers also bring wood samples for the xylotheque. At the Seed Laboratory, the process and study the seeds that are stored in refrigeration chambers, the remaining seeds are sent to the Tree Nursery for the production of sprouts. Finally, the entomological collection has the main goal of preserving adult and immature insects collected on the plants of the Arboretum, some of which capable of damaging those plants, with the intent of recording and studying these occurrences.

    • Arboretum

      A botanical garden differs from other institutions because it keeps Collections of Living Plants properly documented. These institutions mantain their Collections of Living Plants for a number of uses towards generating and spreading knowledge on plants based in scientific investigations.

      Besides the botanic information, regarding the scientific name of the plants, the botanical gardens also provide information on plants that are part of our daily lives and that are linked to the national, regional or local culture. The information explains the origin and the distribution of species, its usages and other interesting facts.

      Thus, a botanical garden has plants that constitute important institutional collections, which are references for many professionals in their investigations and also providing education and culture for the general public. The living plants of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden are stored in greenhouses, the plant houses or spread on the tree-beds of the arboretum area.

      • DNA Repository


        For over 200 years, the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden has been developing research in many fields of botany. Native species of the Brazilian flora, many of them being rare or endangered, have always been the focus of the research. The maintenance and the improvement of the scientific collection are also part of the institutional goals. The Herbarium, the Arboretum, the Xylotheque and the Carpotheque are also important collections, being the herbarium one of the largest and oldest of the country. In June 9, 2004, the DNA Bank on Species of the Brazilian Flora was added to those collections. Just as the rest of them, the DNA Bank will be permanently provided with new samples.

        Our Goal

        The DNA Repository of the Research Institute of the Botanical Garden aims at conserving genetic information representing the huge diversity of the Brazilian flora, being a historical register of the plant variation and a standard for conservation and biotechnology.

        Our goal is to store the DNA of the collection of the arboretum, of relevant species from Brazilian ecosystems, especially from the Atlantic Forest, of special taxonomic groups, of samples from the Herbarium and from different accesses of rare and/or endangered species.


        The DNA stored at the Bank comes from specimens collected in scientific expeditions performed by researchers of the institution, of the Collections of the Arboretum, specimens from the Herbarium and donated plant material and/or DNA.

        The material is collected in liquid nitrogen or is immediately dried out in silica gel before being brought to the laboratory. The extracted DNA is kept at -80ºC with its respective “voucher” deposited at the Herbarium collection.
        - Due to the many possibilities of questions to be answered and groups/species to be worked with, the gathering of material (type, quantity, method and drying) must be done according to the curatorship.
        - Any species to be included at the Bank must be sent with a testimony material at the herbarium.
        - The delivery of the material to be processed must be accompanied by all the information asked for (genus, species, family, number of the collector, place of the gathering, date and registry number of the witness material at the herbarium).
        - The methods of extraction used are: CTAB 2% and MATAB 4%. The preparation produces samples that are pure enough not to inhibit enzyme treatments. The store material is tested for the Polymerization Chain Reaction (PCR).
        - DNA samples can be sent to other research institutions or universities when the demand made by the researcher is approved by the herbarium curatorship.
        - External material can be deposited in the DNA Bank of the Botanical Garden if accompanied by testimony material and all the other information (genus, species, family, number of the collector, place, and date).

        THE DNA Repository of the Botanical Garden can be accessed by means of JABOT


        Links to other DNA Repositories

        Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

        Australian Plant DNA Bank

        Missouri Botanical Garden


        • Bromeliarium

          The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden houses around 15 thousand specimens of bromeliads, distributed across two large greenhouses and tree-beds at the arboretum. The main green house, the Bromeliarium, was built in honor of the artist and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. It was opened in 1975 and renovated in 2007, aiming at improving the climatic conditions for the conservation of the plants, since the greenhouse holds the “scientific collection”, with 5 thousand individuals of known precedence. This collection was and still is formed by means of scientific expeditions of researchers of the Botanical Garden, the Roberto Burle Marx’ Grange and other national institutions. It is composed of 530 species of many Brazilian formations - the Amazon rainforest, the Atlantic Forest, restingas and caatingas  - as well as specimens from South and Central America, with an emphasis on the endemic, rare and endangered species, which makes of the Botanical Garden a world reference center on the conservation of the Bromeliaceae family.


          The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden holds a bromeliad collections since more than a hundred years ago. Old botanists from the institution already collected those species for research: Brade, Santos Lima, Kuhlmann, Pereira and Duarte, among others.

          In 1975, Dr. Raulino Reitz, an expert in Bromeliaceae of renown and director of the Botanical Garden at the time, opened the Ecological Bromeliarium of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. In the same event, the Brazilian Bromeliad Society was founded, with Dr. Reitz being elected president and Dr. Lyman Smith (Smithsonian Institution – USA) as an honorary president.

          In 1976, Dr. Felisberto Camargo, a researcher on the Ananas genus (pineapple), donated a collection of species of this genus to the bromeliarium, improving the collection. The archives at the time registered the existence of 148 species at the collection. More recently, the collection was improved by many scientific expeditions, among which can be mentioned those of Dimitre Sucre and Gustavo Martinelli, conducted by means of the Bromelia Project.


          • Entomological

            The entomological collection is located at the Plant Health Laboratory. Its main goal is of preserving adult as well as immature insects collected from the plants in the Arboretum. Many of those insects damage those plants and the collection helps to register and study those occurrences. We also have preserved specimens from the research of the entomofauna of the Botanical Garden and other urban green areas, focusing on ants (Hymenoptera), termites (Isoptera), borer beetles (Coleoptera) and mosquitos (Diptera).

            • Ethnobotany

              The most recent collection related to the herbarium is the Ethnobotanical Collection, registered in 2012 on the Index Herbariorum. It is constituted by a collection of useful plants and its wild relatives, as well as artifacts, derivatives and information on the usage of those plants. The main goal of this collection is to ensure that the knowledge on the usage of those plants by traditional peoples and communities is recorded and preserved. Following that line, the specimens are being acquired and incorporated as testimonies of the local knowledge regarding the history and the usage of species. Considering the peculiarities of this collection, the samples are recognized by its own acronym (RBetno) and follow the rules established by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Brazilian Law on the Access to Genetic Resources (2001), especially related to the conservation of genetic resources and the traditional knowledge associated to it. The RBetno is also ruled by the ethics codes of the professional societies (Declaration of Belém, 2004; International Society of Ethnobiology, 2006), that deal with the protection of the ethnobotanic information related to the registered material.

              • Fungi

                The fungi culture collection, started in 2010, aims at conserving on of the promising group of organisms in environmental bioremediation processes, with an important role on the biogeochemical cycles They are widely used in feeding, are important pathogens of important plants on economy or conservation. The fungi are also part of most biotechnological processes used on the production of commercial substances or on the on the changes of substrata in products of increased added value. The collection preserves those organisms for current and future studies and also for their future usage on the recomposition of environments, in the industry or on related activities. The collection currently holds around 250 fungi kept by periodic pricking, of which 120 are done by the distilled water method (Castellani) and 22 by the method of freeze-drying or lyophilization. Most of the fungi samples have been isolated from plants with symptoms of fungi diseases gathered in many sprout-beds used in reforestation. Lately, the priority has been on isolation of fungi that are potentially pathogenic towards the seed samples preserved at the seed repository of the Botanical Garden. 

                • Herbarium

                  A herbarium is composed by a collection of “exsiccatae”, dehydrated plant samples that are registered and stored under special conditions for its conservation throughout the centuries. Besides the exsiccatae, many other elements from plants can also be part of a herbarium, such as wood fragments, fruits, artifacts, wooden sheets, pollen or DNA samples.

                  The initial collection of the herbarium was composed of 25,000 samples donated by Peter II, but its history and of the other collections associated to the herbarium began in March, 25, 1890, at the moment in which the naturalist João Barbosa Rodrigues took office as director of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. During the 20th Century, associated researchers organized many expeditions to gather plants in different regions of the country, increasing the number of samples and the exchange with herbariums in Brazil and abroad. All this work enabled the enrichment of the collection, increasing its scientific importance for the Brazilian flora, being recognized until today as a strategic collection for the country. The herbarium currently holds 600,000 exsiccatae of all plant and fungi groups, with 20 thousand new samples being added on a yearly basis. The collection of typus must also be highlighted, with around 7,500 samples. This collection can be researched online.

                  Historical Collections

                  A historical collection marks a time or an event in the history of botany. They are usually considered to be historical since they are quoted in the scientific works of the last century. Among the historical collections, the oldest ones belongs to the Herbier Geral of Feé (1705-1872), acquired by Peter II. Also important are the collections Rabenhorst (1861), J. Kuntze (1876), Herb. Kamerling (1892).
                  Curator: Rafaela Forzza
                  Substitute Curator: Marcus Nadruz

                  Types of exchange

                  Donation by identification – exchange of copies of plants to be identified by an expert Permutation – exchange of copies of plants for other plants
                  Loan of plants for taxonomic studies

                  Project Computerization of the Herbarium RB Collection


                  • Seed repository for the conservation of biodiversity


                    The storage of seeds is one of the most efficient and practical strategies of conserving the biodiversity ex situ (outside their place of origin), especially when the species reproduce asexually (through seeds). This technique is frequently used as a complementation of the in situ methods of conservation (in the place of origin), but it can be the only conservation option for a few rare and endangered species.

                    Why should we store the species in seed repositories?

                    • Among the ex situ conservation techniques, the storage of seeds is the one that takes less space and that costs less money. Especially for the species that produce seeds resistant to the drying process (orthodox);

                    • The seed can be stored for long periods;

                    • If collected adequately, the stored seeds represent a wider genetic diversity than plants in other living collections;

                    • Contrarily to whole plants coming from nature or their vegetative parts, the seed collections, if performed in an adequate manner, causes little impact to the population of an endangered species.

                    How do the seed repositories work?

                    After collecting, registering and processing the seeds, they are evaluated according to their physical and physiological characteristics (mass, water content, viability, etc.). After that, the seeds are dehydrated (drying room: 18°C; 18% URar) until the water content reaches low levels (around 5%). At the end of this step, the seeds are placed in hermetic packages and stored in temperatures below zero (-20°C), reducing its metabolism and enabling its conservation for a long period of time.

                    The seeds of species which are (i) endangered, (ii) endemic, (iii) medicinal, (iv) used to restore the ecology and to rehabilitate the environment and (v) of local economic importance are of paramount importance to be conserved in seed repositories.


                    The Seed Laboratory of the Research Institute of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden manages the growth of the seed repository by means of collection and exchange of seeds, as well as research for the conservation of seeds of native species.

                    Index Seminum

                    O Banco de Sementes realiza o intercâmbio de sementes somente com instituições científicas nacionais (jardins botânicos, universidades, centros de pesquisa, etc.), através do INDEX SEMINUM

                    Sale of seeds

                    The Seed Repository does not sell or donate seeds to individuals.

                    Links to other Seed Repositories

                    Millennium Seed Bank – Kew Royal Botanic Garden

                    The Australian National Botanic Gardens National Seed Bank


                    Dr. Antônio Carlos Silva de Andrade





                    • Xylotheque

                      The anatomical structure of wood contributes significantly to the recognition of trees and bushes on taxonomical or phylogenetic research, especially when the reproductive material (flowers and/or fruits) is absent or scarce. In this context, the xylotheques represent an important source of information for the researcher, offering possibilities to identify and find data on the origin, collectors, etc.

                      History of the Xylotheque

                      The first reports on the existence of a wood collection in the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden are from Barbosa Rodrigues, who grouped together many samples donated by the Emperor Peter II to other wood samples found in the Botanical Garden, with no kind of organization. Those wood samples were part of the first collection of the Botanical Museum, created in 1890. Apparently, the wood collection of the Botanical Museum was improved along the years with new findings by the travelling naturalists, a position created in the Botanical Garden in that same year (Decree 518- June, 23, 1890). The current collection keeps no register of those samples, since many of the registered woods have no information on the collector or the date. The oldest records of the Xylotheque of the Research Institute of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden come from many important researchers from the first half of the 20th Century, such as Adolpho Ducke, Geraldo Kuhlmann, Alexandre Curt Brade, Occhioni and others.

                      The xylotheque of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden officially opened in 1942. Its first register is on a Dyctioloma incannescens (Rutaceae), collected by Kuhlmann in March, 1939.  Since there are many samples collected in previous dates and almost all the documents ruling over the functions of the Botanical Garden in the beginning of the century refer to the existence of wood samples  in the collection, one can deduce that the current collection is the result of a grouping of previous existent collections that were probably maintained by the wood anatomists that worked in the old Plant Biology Institute and in the Forest Service. The oldest wood sample at the collection is the Peltogyne campestris collected by Ducke in the state of Pará, in April, 19, 1911.

                      The period between 1918 and 1966 represents the golden age of the anatomical wood studies in the Garden. Alberto Löfgren, hired in 1918, was the first researcher of the institution to work with wood anatomy. In the 1920s, the anatomy laboratory was organized by the famous microscopist Luiz Gurgel. This enabled more accurate works in optic microscopy. In 1931, Fernando Romano Milanez and Arthur de Miranda Bastos, researchers of the institution, were among the founders of the International Association of Wood Anatomists (IAWA), an association that still convenes wood anatomists from all around the world. Among other activities developed by them, one can highlight the translation of the first rules on the description of woods and the organization, in 1936, on the first meeting of wood anatomists with participants from Brazil and other countries. In the beginning of the 1960s, Raul Dodsworth Machado built an electronic microscopy lab in the Botanical Garden. Machado took himself to the studies of plant cytology in Brazilian woods alongside with Dr. Milanez. The intense activity and the constant discussion of the subjects linked to plant anatomy, with researchers from Brazil and abroad, probably influenced the creation of a wood collection with more precise information on the places of origin, dates, etc. The researcher Armando de Matos Filho was responsible for the organization of the collection by constituting the files and recording the wood samples. Most of the index cards of the current archive were written in his own handwriting.

                      It can be said that the 1970s marked the decadence of the wood anatomy in the Botanical Garden. During these years, the institution had only Armando de Mattos Filho and Paulo Agostinho de Mattos Araújo working on this field of research. They maintained the research activities and the collection, but with less intensive activities if compared to the previous decades. Until 1983, all the information regarding the wood samples of the xylotheque were in index cards, many of which went missing (approximately 100 samples). At the time, the collection was coordinated by the Dr. Cecília Gonçalves Costa, who created the patrimonial record book to recover information of the index cards. Dr. Cecília was the mind behind the renovation of the collection by the end of the 1980s, playing an important role in the training of the researchers that currently work with the Atlantic Forest Program with research projects on plant anatomy. This team reinstated the research line on wood anatomy after five years without this field of expertise in the Botanical Garden since the retirement of Dr. Armando de Matos Filho and the passing of Dr. Paulo Agostinho de Mattos Araújo.

                      The xylotheque currently holds around 8,200 wood samples of 160 families and approximately 35 thousand slides obtained from 2,200 individuals. The collection is organized in steel lockers in the order they were registered and their respective index cards are stored in two ways: (1) according to the respective number of the samples and (2) in alphabetical order according to the taxonomic families. There is also a numerical register of the histological slides.

                      In all those years, the xylotheque also received many donations and exchanges that improved the collection substantially with exotic samples or from other regions of Brazil. The xylotheque of Yale is the biggest donor, with 978 samples of woods from all around the world, collected between 1929 and 1945. Many of those samples were used by the wood anatomist Samuel J. Record for the identification key for his books. The xylotheque also holds a collection of 44 different kinds of wood collected by Paulo de Campos Porto in 1948, especially to make the Record Keys, published in Tropical Woods. There are also donations from the Smithsonian Institute, with 427 samples from the Americas collected in 1961, 185 samples collected by B. A. Krukoff in the Amazon that were donated by the Museum of Natural History and by the U.S. National Herbarium. Lastly, there are also donations from the New York Botanical Garden and of samples gathered in the states of Pará and Amapá between 1961 and 1963 with around 267 samples.

                      The xylotheque of the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden is more representative of the northern states of Brazil, reflecting the interests of the researchers of the institution, mainly until the 1970s. Currently, the tendency of the collection is the regionalization of the registers from field trips, with emphasis in the state of Rio de Janeiro and the different plants from the Atlantic Forest. This regionalization is mitigated by the exchange of samples with other institutions.