Hieracium collection

Hieracium L. is a large, critical genus in Britain and Ireland, containing many hawkweeds which are closely related and difficult to identify. There are over 400 species in the British Isles, and a recent monograph has recently been published by Sell & Murrell (2006) Flora of Great Britain and Ireland, volume 4 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge). Pilosella Hill. used to be treated as part of Hieracium but is now regarded as a distinct genus.

Identification requires an experienced botanist who specialises in Hieracium. Although many species can be named with experience in the field, it is often necessary to collect material to confirm identity by matching against known material held in herbaria. The main tool for studying the genus is therefore a herbarium collection.

A catalogue listing the 6,719 Hieracium specimens named to species from the British Isles has been compiled and gives brief details summarized from the labels. In many cases there is more detailed information available on the sheets themselves and in the museum’s collection database. We have approximately 700 additional specimens from the British Isles unconfirmed or as yet without names and these will be added to the database as and when named. We also hold c. 1000 specimens from Europe which require substantial taxonomic revision.

Hieracium catalogue

The Hieracium collection is at least nationally important in its own right. Features of importance are:

  • It is an important reference collection which has been reviewed against the current taxonomy.

  • It contains one of only two complete sets of Section Alpina specimens currently available in Britain, all checked by D.J. Tennant and many donated by him.

  • The collection contains a number of type specimens, mostly taken from Pugsley (1948). Type specimens are priceless assets for solving taxonomic and nomenclatural problems and provide definitive sources of reference. When a new species is described a type specimen is assigned to that name which then remains linked to that particular specimen for ever.

  • It contains a significant historical component including material collected by several noted hawkweed workers including A. Ley, W.A. Shoolbred, E.S. Marshall, E.F. Linton and W.R. Linton. There are a large number of specimens from the main period of botanical interest in critical groups towards the end of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century. The main collection is that of W.A. Shoolbred (1852-1928), a Doctor from Chepstow, who was one of the main hawkweed workers of his day. By himself, or with E.S. Marshall, he collected numerous specimens from Britain, especially from Scotland. Most of the material is of very good quality, and there are additional notes on the specimens in his notebooks held in the NMW archives.

  • Fifth, it contains one of the top three collections of British hawkweeds (the others being the Natural History Museum in London and Cambridge University).