Algae collections

Seaweed Scinaia forcellata, from a specimen collected by Holmes in Enoura, Japan

Seaweed Scinaia forcellata, from a specimen collected by Holmes in Enoura, Japan

The Museum's collection of algae is one of the largest in the world, with more than a quarter of a million specimens from around the globe.

Algae specimens account for about five per cent of the Museum's botanical collections.


The algae collections number around 300,000 specimens of

  • red, green and brown seaweeds
  • freshwater algae including charophytes, cyanobacteria, euglenophytes and xanthophytes.

The algae collections include:

  • some of the earliest specimens held in the Museum, dating back to the seventeenth century
  • expanding contemporary collections
  • around 10,000 algal type specimens

Major collections

The earliest algae specimens are in the Sir Hans Sloane Herbarium, the Museum's founding collection, with material dating from the early 1600s to the mid-1700s. 

Of particular note are the collections of Adam Buddle, which are incorporated here and include seaweed specimens collected from UK shores in the 1690s.

Recent important collections

In 1970 the algae collections at the Museum and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew were amalgamated. The size of the Museum’s algae collection doubled, dramatically increasing the number of type and historically important specimens.

Recent collections are the vouchers for field research and/or published revisions and floras (such as the Seaweeds of the British Isles series).

Country of origin

The herbarium has a global coverage. The UK is particularly well represented, with a timeline of specimen data going back over 250 years.

Looking for a specific specimen?

The algae collection is being digitised


Michelle Casanova

Any questions?

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.