The Mauritius Herbarium was officially founded in 1960 and, today, it is one of the departments of the MSIRI. Its origin dates back to the early XIX century, when the botanists Louis Bouton and Wenceslas Bojer founded the "Colonial Herbarium" housed at the Royal College, Port Louis in 1821. In a period of the century, the herbarium changed place five times, until finally housed at the MSIRI in 1958, together with the herbaria of the Department of Agriculture and of the MSIRI itself. The first two years (1958-1959) were devoted to the organisation and classification of all collections, under the supervision of R. E. Vaughan, who became the first curator from 1960 to 1969.
Around 45% of the Mascarene flora is endemic and Mauritius has one of the most threatened floras in the world. The Mauritius Herbarium is the main repository of this unique Mascarene plant biodiversity in the region. It is a key institution providing invaluable information to a wide range of disciplines requiring reliable data on Mascarene plants, and is one of the main stakeholders in conservation of the Mauritian terrestrial ecosystems.
Apart from research activities (see Major Projects), the main objective is the safe keeping of the following collections:
One of the main project is the publication of a comprehensive updated flora of the Mascarene islands (the "Flore des Mascareignes"), in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris and the Institut de Recherche pour le Dévelopment (IRD). This project, spanning several decades, comprises the description of about 23,000 species from 203 families.
The first volume was published in 1976 and to-date 25 volumes have been produced, the last one on the ferns in 2008. The first volumes were printed in Mauritius and as from 2001 the volumes were edited and published by the IRD in France in the framework of a renewed partnership. Two of the last three volumes have been on the Cyperaceae and the Gramineae have been completed and will be published by IRD for publication in partnership with MSIRI, KEW and MNHN. The last family the Orchideceae will be the subject of two volumes on epithetic and terrestrial species will be completed in 2018.
Other important projects of the Mauritius Herbarium’s work includes ecological studies and conservation of native plant species. Successful propagation of the endemic species such as Trochetia boutoniana (the Mauritian National Flower), Trochetia parviflora, and the lily Crinum mauritianum were launched by the Herbarium. Other examples of research are the investigation of ecological causes of the decline of the Mauritian native forestss and endemic plant populations.
The Mauritius Herbarium is the National Focal Point of the Global Taxonomy Initiative, a programme under the Convention of Biological Diversity.
Dr Claudia Baider