The New York Botanical Garden


DNA Bank

The Botanical Garden’s DNA Bank is a centralized repository of frozen plant, algal, and fungal tissue and extracted DNA (a self-replicating material that is the carrier of genetic information) for use in analyzing plants at their most essential levels. DNA Bank collections are a primary resource for research carried out in the Garden’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics and Genomics Program. Extracted DNA and tissue collections of the DNA Bank are authoritatively identified, properly documented, cross-referenced to specimens in the Garden’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium and other herbaria, and managed on the model of traditional museum collections.

Castilleja chromosa from Utah, USA, is just one of hundreds of species represented in the Garden’s DNA Bank. The Bank’s tissue and DNA collections are from species occurring in many countries and biomes throughout the world.

Retrieved from
Animated representation of the double helix structure of DNA. The Garden’s DNA Bank holds collections of DNA extracted from tissues of diverse plants, algae, and fungi.

Wikimedia Commons

Accessions to the DNA Bank have surged in recent years because of the Garden’s escalated efforts to document threatened biodiversity and its commitment to large-scale multi-institutional initiatives such as the Barcode of Life. As part of the Plant Genomics Consortium in New York City —with partners the American Museum of Natural History, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and New York University—the Garden’s role is to formulate the biological questions asked, collect plant tissue, and extract and sequence DNA.

DNA aliquots (exact divisions, in solution, of a larger original sample of extracted DNA). Materials collected for DNA banking document the history and diversity of plants, algae, and fungi, and form part of the world’s natural heritage.
A native American chestnut tree growing in its natural habitat, with mature chestnuts (a very, very rare occurrence). A tissue sample of this tree is preserved in silica gel in the DNA Bank.

The discovery of DNA and the advent of DNA sequencing as a research technique have greatly accelerated the rate of plant diversity exploration and understanding in the 21st century. The DNA Bank, used by Garden scientists and scientists worldwide, is playing a significant role in that discovery and acceleration.

Heather Meyer analyzed DNA Bank collections of the green algae Nitella flexilis as part of her internship project with Garden scientist Dr. Kenneth Karol. Her work on understanding the evolutionary relationships of N. flexilis received an Undergraduate Student Research Award from the Botanical Society of America in 2010.
The gametophyte form of a fern commonly sold in the aquarium trade in Taiwan—yet its identity has been unknown. Using DNA sequence analysis, Garden scientist Dr. Robbin Moran and collaborator Fay-Wei Li determined that the gametophyte belongs to the genus Lomariopsis. Find out more information.

Image by Fay-Wei Li. Retrieved from

Organization of the DNA Bank is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant No. DBI-0846412.