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The development of the National Herbarium has long been started by the Forestry Department. The forest herbarium was first established in 1935; two years after the establishment of the Forestry Department. Initially the floristic inventory was limited to commercial trees and only until 1950’s serious collections was made with the production of 2 publications i.e” A Checklist of Brunei Trees” by Hassan Pukol and P.S Ashton, and “Manual of Dipterocarp Trees” by P.S. Ashton.
However the series of specimen collections after the production of the two books in 1960’s was not actively pursued until the year 1987 when the new Section of Forest Botany was established.
The collections had been moved several times until the year 1998 when the Brunei National Herbarium known internationally by the acronym “BRUN” was completed; the collection is permanently placed in its present location. BRUN had already been listed in the Herbariorium Index.
The Function of the Herbarium
The Brunei National Herbarium (BRUN) is the main herbarium in Brunei Darussalam and plays an important role as the centre for specimens collected in the country as well as specimens from the neighboring countries Sabah, Sarawak, West Malaysia, Kalimantan, Indonesia and Singapore. BRUN is also actively sending duplicate specimens to major herbaria such as Kew Botanic Gardens (K) and Leiden (L), and some regional herbaria such as Kuching (SAR), Sandakan (SAN), FRIM, Kepong (KEP) and Singapore Botanic Gardens (SING).
The Herbarium Collections
Botanical collections are carried out regularly and at present, BRUN is set for the 21st Century. It has a comprehensive database, part of which is available on the Internet through the Kew Gardens website. Cataloguing is now computerized, and electronic image storing is now computerized. The five years (1990-1995) collaboration project between the Forestry Department of Brunei Darussalam and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew was successfully produced A Checklist of Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Brunei Darussalam.
The herbarium specimens are also arranged in alphabetical order of families, genera and species, this would make reference easier for all users. Currently, BRUN houses more than 29,000 dry specimen collections, and the herbarium is laid out into 3 blocks comprising of bryophytes and pteridophytes collection in Block A, dicotyledons collection in Block B, and monocotyledons collection in Block C. The dicotyledons collection is placed in compactor cabinet system, whilst the others are placed in steel cabinets.
BRUN is an important reference centre in the country. Researchers from other parts of the world, chiefly those attached to the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, often visit BRUN.
Type specimens for new species described from Brunei are of taxonomic importance. All type specimens are carefully kept in special folders (red folders) in a separate room. Currently, there are 101 type specimens kept at BRUN, and mostly are isotypes, of which 91 types described were from Brunei Darussalam and others were collected from Sabah and Sarawak.
BRUN also houses a large collection of slide photographs for the various plant species. Carpological collections are also maintained, but currently, they are rather limited and need to be expanded in the future. Apart from the dried specimens, BRUN is also developing ex-situ planting areas for living specimens, such as the orchid, bamboo and palm collections.
The tremendous amount of data kept at BRUN would be valuable for resource management purposes. For that reason, BRUN is also associated with resource conservation. In future, BRUN would be the driving force behind biodiversity management in the country. This would provide a very strong basis for biotechnology development, and so for eco-tourism development.
For the purpose of the management of the collections BRUN is equipped with its own data base system called the BRUNEI HERBARIUM DATABASE.
The digitizing of the specimens has been started and future development is to join the BRAHM online groups.
To date, the total number of plant species known to Brunei Darussalam is about 4,696 species, which can be classified into subdivisions and classes, as the table below:
The National Herbarium (BRUN) is always committed in giving the relevant services to the public especially to students, teachers, researches both in the country and internationally. BRUN can assist those requiring services such as plant identification, plant loan etc .
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