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HIFP History Background

The Herbarium of French Institute of Pondicherry, popularly known as HIFP was established in 1956 by Pierre Legris, an engineer from the Forestry commission of France. Since then, the collections have grown as a result of work by successive Researchers and students, as well as through the acquisition of other collections. Major contributors of the Herbarium include Meher-Homji, (between 1960 and 1981), G. Thanikaimani, Palynologist (1960-1986), Blasco (1962-1978), Shankaranarayan (1957-1959), Balasubramanian (1971-1979), Seetharam (1977-1981), Suresh (1980-1981), Jean-Pierre Pascal (1974-1994). B.R. Ramesh (1982 onwards), N. Ayyappan (2005 onwards). Computer cataloguing of HIFP began in 1998. Plant specimens have been added periodically to the collection by the staff and the herbarium is maintained with the assistance S. Aravajy and N. Barathan, and cataloguing was handled by S. Ramalingam; initially it was entered in Excel then transferred to Access database. In 2010, the herbarium database was transferred in to the open source Pl@ntNote software and published on the Institute's World Wide Web site with the support of Pl@ntNet project. Subsequently web site was upgraded with improved searching of specimen records and simple mapping capabilities. Recently, the specimens were moved out of the old wooden cases and into modern steel ones.

HIFP houses large number of collections from the Western Ghats, especially for tree species, the other parts of India and also from different parts of the globe, which were received from different herbaria as a gift or on exchange basis. The herbarium presently contains over 24,000 specimens belonging to 268 families and 4659 species.

Research Activities

Research programs at HIFP includes to document and understand plant diversity in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, the other parts of peninsular India; to transfer the taxonomic expertise developed to various users the service, which includes transferring of taxonomic expertise gained through our studies through vegetation map, species distributional map, rationalization and implications for conservation of biodiversity in the Western Ghats; construction of identification key (field guide and electronic interactive keys), online plant identification resources, online specimen catalogues, and plant identification services to students, researchers, forests department officials and visiting scientists.


The variety of plants in the collection are categorized as follows Dicotyledons, Monocotyledons, Pteridophytes, Fungi and Algae.In each category specimens were arranged according to alphabetic order of families. Genera within the family are then placed in alphabetical order. And then the species (/subtaxon) within each genera arranged by the alphabet. This arrangement makes it easy to retrieve specimens but gives no clue to the relationship between the specimen and other species, genera, or families.