Botany collections

red seaweed on white background

The Museum's botany collection holds an estimated 5.25 million specimens of algae, bryophytes, ferns, seed plants, lichens and slime moulds from all over the world.

The botanical collection spans a period from the 17th century to the present and includes a number of historically important collections such as those of:

  • Sir Hans Sloane
  • Sir Joseph Banks

Looking for a specimen?

The botany collection is being digitised

Principal Curator in Charge


Our collection is one of the largest in the world, containing over 300,000 specimens accumulated from the early nineteenth century to the present day.


Our algae collection is among the largest in the world and includes a rich source of important historical material.

Slime mould

This collection has a global scope and was the foundation for the book “Monograph of the Myzetozoa” by A and G Lister.


Our lichen collection is is an important research resource and one of the world's largest lichen collections.


Examination of this material has revealed new taxonomic and distributional data, with more yet to be discovered.

The British and Irish herbarium

Nearly every known British and Irish native or established non-native taxon is represented.


We house one of the most important collections of ferns and other seed-free vascular plants in the world, with around 350,000 specimens.

General Herbarium

Our two million General Herbarium specimens represent a unique global resource for studying global seed plant diversity. 

Historical (pre-Linnean) botanical collections

The Historical Collections Room houses some of our most historic items, including botanical specimens collected over 400 years ago.

Collections on the move

Access to some collections will be affected as we prepare for the move to our new collections, science and digitisation centre.

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.