The Natural History Museum’s plant collections comprise an estimated 6 million specimens of:
The collections are worldwide in origin with around 10% from the British Isles.
They span a period from the 17th century to the present and include a number of historically important collections such as those of:
The collections continue to grow and develop, with recent collecting efforts focused on supporting current research projects.
Type specimen of Rhododendron tsareinse Cowan from Tibet
A comparatively high percentage of the Botany Department's specimens are type material - some 2.6%.
The department is part of a major international project to database and image type specimens. These data and images are being made available via online collections.
With the exception of lichenised taxa and a small reference collection of lichenicolous species (fungi that grow on lichens), there are no fungi held in the Botany Department.
Apart from fossil diatom collections, fossil botanical material is cared for by the Palaeontology Department.
Learn more about the collections housed in one of the world’s largest bryophyte herbaria. They incorporate over 900,000 specimens from around the globe, including more than 32,000 type specimens.
Our fern collections include major historical and modern collections, as well as the herbarium of the founder of modern fern taxonomy. Find out about the collections, their curation and how to access them.
Find out about our seed plant collections, an important resource for the scientific community. The earliest specimens originate from the 17th century and some collections provide time series that make it possible to study climate and vegetation changes.
The Botany Department has an outstanding palynological slide collection. All major vascular plant groups are represented, with a particular focus on angiosperms and pteridophytes of Quaternary importance.
The molecular collections contain silica gel-preserved material and DNA that enable investigation of plants at the molecular level.
Explore the history of our unique botany collections. They cover a period of unprecedented exploration and include the significant historical collections of Sir Hans Sloane from the 17th century as well as the first botanical collections from Australia and New Zealand, obtained by Joseph Banks on his HMS Endeavour voyage.