Modern pollen and spore collection

Acquired in 2013, the modern pollen and spore collection consists of approximately 12,000 glass slides. Each slide contains labelled examples of pollen and/or spores from key extant (living) northwest European flora.

Much of the collection has been imaged using both traditional light microscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipment. The collection therefore includes a vast library of printed images for many of the genera encountered.

Research applications

The palaeontological value of an extant collection lies in helping us to understand the prevailing environmental conditions of the last c. 2.58 Million Years (the Quaternary Period).

Pollen grains and spores are found in most sedimentary deposits and have been around since pre-Cambrian times, making them reliable dating tools. As many species require specific environmental conditions to survive, their presence in the fossil record can reveal changes in climate. 

Find out more about why we study palynomorphs

History of the collection

The modern pollen and spore collection has a complex history, beginning with its acquisition from the Museum’s former botany department in 2013.

The slide collection appears to be an amalgamation of multiple smaller collections, with some of the contributing slides dating back to before WWII.

Volumes from the Northwest European Pollen Flora Project.

Volumes from the Northwest European Pollen Flora Project.

Much of the hard work on the collection was undertaken by the late Peter Stafford, a former palynologist at the Museum.

During his career, Peter worked with a number of external palynologists, including Steve Blackmore, adding specimens to the collection that were part of the Northwest European Pollen Flora Project.

Micropalaeontology curators have been working hard to update the collection database, allowing users to carry out keyword searches and locate pollen or spores from a specific species.

Find out more

Palynomorphs, Oligosphaeridium and Chlamydophorella nyei. Palynomorphs

Find out more about these valuable microfossils and how they can help us date rocks, find hydrocarbons and study climate change.