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 diatom collections are curated separately.
The algae collections number around 400,000 specimens. The main algal groups represented here are:
- red, green and brown seaweeds
- freshwater algae including charophytes
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.
Red algae (Rhodophyta) 120,000
Brown algae (Phaeophyceae) 50,000
Marine green algae (Chlorophyta) 35,000
Freshwater and terrestrial green algae (Charophyta) 18,000
Cyanobacteria (Cyanophyta) 8,000
Other groups (including euglenoids and xanthophytes) 1,000
Red algae (Rhodophyta) 5,500
Brown algae (Phaeophyceae) 2,000
Marine green algae (Chlorophyta) 1,500
Freshwater and terrestrial green algae (Charophyta) 800
Cyanobacteria (Cyanophyta) unknown
Other groups (including euglenoids and xanthophytes) 10
Herbarium sheets 230,000
Boxed collection 4,000
Microscope slides marine 24,000
Microscope slides fresh 10,000
Liquid (spirit) marine 6,000
Liquid (spirit) fresh 3,000
Unincorporated collections around 15,000
Historical bound volumes – around 80
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).
W H Harvey
A D Cotton
W and G S West
E M Holmes
Maze and Schramm
A W Griffiths
G O Allen
H and J Groves
G R Bullock-Webster
T B Blow
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.
United Arab Emirates
Looking for a specimen?
The algae collection is being digitised
If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch.