Research & Results

National Biodiversity Collection – Herbarium KRAM

The W. Szafer Institute of Botany PAS is one of the most important disposers of scientific collections and databases of the biological diversity of vascular plants and cryptogams (bryophytes, algae, fungi, including lichens, and myxomycetes) in Europe and worldwide. These collections, known widely as the Herbarium KRAM, are of international importance and have been included for a long time in the world's most important databases, e.g. Index Herbariorum, Index Fungorum, Algae Base. In 2020, the Institute's scientific collections were entered on the Polish Roadmap for Research Infrastructures under the name of the National Biodiversity Collection of Recent and Fossil Organisms at W. Szafer Institute of Botany, Polish Academy of Sciences (NBC IB PAS).

The origins of the botanical collection can be traced back to 1867 and are connected with the former Museum of the Physiographic Commission of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. The oldest historical collections, kept in the Institute, date back to the end of the 18th century. The total number of enumerated items (herbarium sheets) is near 1.5 million (further about 230,000 items await inventory). The Institute herbarium is also the richest Polish collection in terms of the representation of systematic groups of plants and fungi, including substantial collections from all continents.

Contact person – chief curator:

Professor Lucyna Śliwa (Director of IB PAS)

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Herbarium of vascular plants – KRAM V

Herbarium of vascular plants comprises over 643,000 mounted and accessioned specimens (including ca. 2,300 nomenclatural types), plus several thousand additional unmounted and unaccessioned specimens being processed. Our herbarium is one of the two largest in Poland. It is particularly rich in specimens from southern Poland, western Ukraine and Carpathians, due to the efforts of B. Kotula, H. Zapałowicz, B. Pawłowski and several other botanists who have been active in these regions.

The oldest collection is the herbarium of J. Jundziłł (1794–1877) who was a professor at Vilnius University. His set consists of 7,318 specimens (including 6,249 of vascular plants) arranged into 40 herbarium boxes and 5 fascicles. Most collections were collected by Jundziłł in the vicinity of Kowno (now Kaunas, Lithuania) in years 1825–1832. The oldest KRAM V collections are also parts of the Jundziłł's Herbarium. These are 51 sheets collected during J. Cook's second voyage (1772–1775) by J.G. Forster (1754–1794) in South Africa and 29 sheets of J.E. Gilibert (1741–1814) without collection data.

The story of the KRAM herbarium goes back to the year 1865, the founding year of the Physiographical Commission initiated by the Kraków Scientific Society, which was transformed in 1873 into the Academy of Arts and Sciences. The first herbarium sets were deposited in the Physiographical Commission by members of the Society (afterwards the Academy of Arts and Sciences). The collection of Stanisław Witwicki gathered in 1865 was registered as the first in the collection catalogue. This collection consists of 137 collection events from the Chornohora mountain range of the Eastern Carpathians (Ukraine). The collection catalogue of the Physiographic Commission includes 310 registered collections in years 1866–1946. With the passage of time the herbarium of the Physiographical Commission was expanding also thanks to donations or purchases and as a result of special scientific expeditions or exchange co-operation with other research institutions. The abundant herbarium material collected during the Commission's activities is mainly found in the KRAM V herbarium of the W. Szafer Institute of Botany of the Polish Academy of Sciences, which took over the botanical collections of the Physiographical Commission after the dissolution of the Polish Academy of Learning in 1952.

The KRAM V is having rich collections of eminent Polish botanists of the last 150 years, e.g.: A. Jasiewicz (ca. 50,000 herbarium sheets) from the Carpathians, Balkan Peninsula, Mediterranean area, Mexico and China, B. Kotula from Tirol (16,931 collection events) and Tatra Mts., T. Wilczyński (ca. 10,000 items), K. Piech (6,712 collection events), I. Dąbkowska (3,871 collection events), A. Ślendziński from Pokuttya (Ukraine), E. Janczewski from Volhynia (Ukraine), A. Andrzejowski from Ukraine, H. Zapałowicz from Carpathians, A. Rehman, E. Wołoszczak and A. Żmuda.

In KRAM V, besides the Jundziłł's Herbarium, there are stored two separate collections of Józef Mądalski (hb. Mądalski) and Bogumił Pawłowski (hb. Pawłowski). Mądalski’s Herbarium was donated to the W. Szafer Institute of Botany in 1991 and consists of 38,292 numbered collection events (excluding doublets or multiplets). The herbarium of B. Pawłowski consists of over 40,000 sheets and was donated to the KRAM Herbarium by his wife after his tragic death in 1971. His herbarium mainly includes the flora of the mountains of central and southern Europe.

Contact person – curator:

Dr. Beata Paszko

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Herbarium of bryophytes – KRAM B

Herbarium of bryophytes is the largest collection of these plants in Poland and one of the largest in Central Europe. At the end of 2020, it consisted of over 257,000 accessioned specimens of mosses, liverworts and hornworts and this number apparently locates it in the top 40 largest bryophyte herbaria in the world. In addition, there are about 60,000 specimens in the herbarium, which are still waiting to be processed and accessioned into the main collection, including a large collection of mosses from West and Central Africa (approximately 15,000 specimens) donated to KRAM by S. Lisowski (1924–2002) and the world moss collection (approximately 20,000 specimens) of M. Kuc (1932–2011). The herbarium holds also about 2,500 nomenclatural types, i.e. specimens that were used to describe new taxa of bryophytes. These are the most valuable collections which determine the unique status of each herbarium compared to other similar collections. In total, the herbarium of bryophytes contains about 80% of all known species of moss, representing approximately 90% of all traditionally conceived genera of these plants in the world.

The herbarium of bryophytes holds mosses, liverworts and hornworts from all over the world, although for obvious reasons a significant part of the collection constitute bryophytes from Poland. The collection of mosses is much larger than that of liverworts and hornworts, as the former have always been the main subject of research in the Laboratory of Bryology. The Polish collections include voucher specimens documenting local Floras and floristic treatments published in the Laboratory of Bryology, as well as numerous duplicates and original collections of bryologists working in other research centres in the country. The rich collections of exotic bryophytes, especially those from the southern polar regions, which are among the world's largest collections of these plants, are of special scientific importance. They include bryophytes from all parts of Antarctica and subantarctic islands, in particular from the Prince Edward Islands, Îles Crozet, Îles Kerguelen, Heard Island and South Georgia, as well as Île Amsterdam, Tristan da Cunha archipelago and Gough Island. In addition, collections from China, tropical Africa, South America, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand are particularly well represented.

Apart from duplicates and original specimens, the bryophyte herbarium at KRAM contains numerous sets of exsiccatae, which are held in the main collection, although they are usually kept in separate folders. Among the historical exsiccatae, such valuable series as Musci Sueciae Exsiccati by S.J. Lindgren, K.F. Thedenius and O.L. Sillén (1835–1838), Musci Alleghenienses by W.S. Sullivant (1846), Hepaticae Europaeae by G.L. Rabenhorst and C.M. Gottsche (1855–1879), Bryotheca Europaea G.L. Rabenhorst (1858–1884), Flora Exsiccata Austro-Hungarica by A.J. Kerner von Marilaun, K. Fritsch and R. Wettstein (1881–1913), Kryptogamae Exsiccatae editae a Museo Palatino Vindobonensi (1894–1986), Musci Europaei Exsiccati and Musci Europaei et Americani Exsiccati by E. Bauer (1903–1936), Bryotheca Saxonica by A. Kopsch (1919–1936) and Musci Brasilienses by V.F. Schiffner (1932) deserve special attention because they contain many type specimens.

Contact person – curator:

Professor Ryszard Ochyra

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Collections of algae – KRAM A

Collections of algae comprise herbarium specimens, collection of exsiccates (Phycotheca Polonica) built up by M. Raciborski, J. Wołoszyńska, K. Starmach and others (L. Rabenhorst, U. Wittrock ex O. Nordstedt), and the iconotheca of algae. The iconotheca originated in the 1960s and was modelled after "Fritsch Collection of Freshwater Algal Illustrations", housed at the Institute of Freshwater Ecology in Windermere, Great Britain, and it is currently the only iconotheca in Poland and one of the three largest ones in the world. It is a valuable form of documenting phycological data and contains 415,510 drawings, and as much as 11,150 taxa newly described for science, alphabetical index of the names of taxa and bibliography comprising 7,350 items. Iconography is the only easily accessible source of information about the newly described, microscopic species that cannot be preserved or kept in live algal cultures.

Contact person – curator:

Professor Konrad Wołowski

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Collections of fungi – KRAM F

Collections of fungi contain more than 60,300 of enumerated items (another 50,000 requires inventory). The collection comprises mostly Basidiomycota (club fungi), and to a lesser extent Ascomycota (sac fungi) and fungal-like organisms, mainly from Europe (mostly from Poland), but also from Africa, South America and Asia. The collections of wood-inhabiting fungi and phytopathogenic fungi are especially valuable. A priceless collection is the Laboulbeniales collection by T. Majewski, which is an interesting evolutionary group of fungi parasitizing on insects. The Laboulbeniales collection includes a collection of beetles, flies and other insects colonized by them. The high rank of KRAM F is evidenced by the presence of numerous nomenclatural types.

Contact person – curator:

Dr. Marcin Piątek

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Collections of lichens – KRAM L

Collections of lichens is the largest lichenological herbarium in Poland, including collections of recognized international importance. The collection consists of about 72,000 specimens, including 250 nomenclatural types and 7,000 specimens from 35 series of exsiccates. It hosts a number of valuable collections on national and international scales, among others historical exsiccate publications by e.g. F. Arnold and G. Rabenhorst. Lichens gathered in Poland, and particularly in the Carpathians (including the largest and especially valuable collection of J. Nowak) are the bulk of the KRAM L collection. Important are also collections from tropical areas of South America (including the largest world’s collection of lichens and lichenicolous fungi from Bolivia), from the Ukrainian Eastern Carpathians and Podolya, Asia, North America and polar areas. The most significant part includes species from the families Buelliaceae, Cladoniaceae, Lecanoraceae, Physciaceae, Teloschistacea, Umbilicariaceae and Verrucariaceae, and also the sets of neotropical foliicolous lichens and lichenicolous fungi. The herbarium comprises historical collections assembled by W. Boberski, J. Mądalski, A. Rehman, K. Glanc, J. Kiszka and J. Piórecki, as well as, by several contemporary Polish and foreign lichenologists.

Contact person – curator:

Dr. Adam Flakus

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Collection of myxomycetes – KRAM M

Collection of myxomycetes contains 1200 inventoried specimens, ca. 3,000 unnumbered specimens and ca. 3,000 permanent microscopic preparations. The bulk of this collection comprises historical material, notably internationally important contributions from M. Raciborski, J. Krupa and H. Krzemieniewska. The herbarium collection has been further enriched by exchange or donations which included specimens collected or studied by A. Lister, Ch. Meylan, J. Schroeter and C. Torrend. Recent contributions (21st century) have established in particular an important collection of nivicolous myxomycetes from the mountainous areas of the world. KRAM M includes ca. 100 nomenclatural type collections and specimens from various countries worldwide.

Contact person – curator:

Dr. Anna Ronikier

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Palaeobotanical collection – KRAM P

Palaeobotanical collection is the most valuable and most extensive (ca. 100,000 items) collection of this type in Poland and one of the largest in Central Europe. Fossilized plant materials document pre-Paleogene floras (aged over 65 million years), Paleogene and Neogene floras (65–2.6 million years) and Quaternary floras (2.6 million years until modern times). Floras aged over 65 million years comprise 101 collections and single specimens from 22 other sites in Poland and in the world. Specimens in the form of rock fragments with preserved parts of plants, thin polished sections of mineralized trunks, or branches, and microscopic slides, mostly of leaf cuticles, pollen and spores, comprise over 6,000 items. Some specimens were assembled in places that later on became inaccessible or difficult to access for various reasons, e.g. from Hope Bay in Antarctic Peninsula, Mongolia, Rhynie in Great Britain, Grojec near Kraków, or Odrowąż in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. Among the assembled specimens, particularly worthy of notice are holotypes described as the new for science Mesozoic taxa, including not only species but also genera holotypes. The presence of these unique specimens contributes to the importance of the collection, making it more attractive for scientists from research centres from all over the world. The collection of Paleogene and Neogene floras is rich in fruits and seeds, and rock fragments with imprints or carbonized parts of plants, preparations of entire leaves and other fragments of plants, and cuticular slides. Quaternary floras contain mostly fruits and seeds but also leaves, seed coats, cones and wood fragments. Worthy of mention is also the unique comparative collection of modern plants, comprising the collection of fruits and seeds (ca. 27,000 items), collection of palynological slides (ca. 17,200 slides composing a specific pollen herbarium), collection of leaves (ca. 4,700 sheets), collection of cuticular slides (ca. 600 slides), comparative collection of wood fragments (300 samples of contemporary trees and shrubs, and 380 anatomical slides), comparative collection of peats (280 slides of tissues and 310 slides of peat units). Only few scientific institutions in Poland and in the world host collections of microscope slides of leaf cuticles and unique collection of slides of cleared fossil leaves, which makes our collection extremely valuable and useful for palaeobotanical studies.

Contact person – curator:

Dr. Agnieszka Wacnik

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Collection of DNA isolates

Collection of DNA isolates is the newest collection, established in 2015 to assemble isolates of the total genomic DNA of many taxa, as well as amplicons of selected DNA pieces. In addition to DNA samples, there are kept tissues that are initial materials for DNA isolation. The collection is a unique material for studying DNA at the species and population levels. Currently, there are more than 20,000 DNA samples that have been collected in, among others, hard-to-reach areas (including high mountains, polar areas and tropical areas). For many species it was possible to assemble samples from their whole geographical ranges (e.g. population sampling of ca. 2,000 specimens of arctic-alpine Dryas octopetala in its circumpolar range). The collection of DNA isolates is very important for documenting the biodiversity and differentiation of the populations of rare, protected and endangered species, studied in the Institute. The collection is remarkable for its documentary value and potential for research at a national and international level.

Contact person – curator:

Dr. Michał Ronikier

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