Bryophyte collections

Bryophyte on a brown background

Calyptrochaeta asplenioides, collected from Réunion Island in the eighteenth century

The Museum's bryophyte herbarium is among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

The collection provides a unique source of critical data for the international bryological community, supporting research on taxonomy, habitat conservation and environmental monitoring over historical periods of time.  

Geographical range. 

Global:  Arctic, boreal-temperate, tropical, austral-temperate, Antarctic

Temporal range.

Late 17th Century - 21st Century 

Strengths of the collection

Most of the collections were accumulated by notable bryologists in the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. These pioneers of bryophyte taxonomy described thousands of new taxa from every continent, and consequently, the herbarium is rich in original material.

The herbarium is also rich in the specimens of pioneering early plant collectors, such as H. von Handel-Mazzetti, who collected in China, Humboldt & Bonpland in South America, GHK Thwaites in Sri Lanka and JD Hooker in Antarctica, India, and New Zealand.

Extensive recent collections of tropical and subtropical bryophytes have been made over the last 60 years, many by museum bryologists. Most significantly, these include material from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Indian subcontinent, the Seychelles and Mascarenes, New Zealand, and Ascension Island.

At home, in the United Kingdom, the Museum holds a large and ever-growing representation of British and Irish bryophytes, with collections ranging from historical to the contemporary.

Worthy of note

The primary type material of some of the hundreds of new taxa described by the 19th century German bryologist Carl Müller (Hal.)  was destroyed in World War II, but duplicates of a significant fraction of his original material are held in BM.


Notable Expedition material

Vancouver Expedition 1791-1795 (collections by Archibald Menzies)

Flinders Expedition, HMS Investigator, 1801 (collections by Robert Brown)

Parry’s Arctic Voyages 1819-1820 (various collectors)

Challenger Expedition 1872-1876 (collector ‘Mr Moseley’)

Antarctic Voyage of HM Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror in 1839-1843 (collections by J.D. Hooker)

German Transit of Venus Expedition, SMS Gazelle, 1874 (incomplete range of collections by ‘Dr Naumann’)

Looking for a specimen?

The bryophyte collection is being digitised

Senior Curator, Bryophytes (Mosses)

Curator, Bryophytes (Liverworts and Hornworts)

Principal Curator, in charge of Algae, Bryophytes & Lichens

Collections on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected. 

Find out more and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on changes to collections access, relevant news and opportunities to get involved.

Accessing the collections

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

Collection management

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