Fern collections

Pages from the fern collection

Specimens from the fern herbarium including examples of DipterisPityrogramma and Matonia

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



Type specimens



The collections cover global fern diversity and have particular geographical strengths in:

  • Europe and the British Isles
  • Malesia
  • South Asia
  • Tropical America
  • Macaronesia

The collections span the seventeenth century to the present day. They are especially valuable due to their richness in types, historical collections and cytological vouchers.

Our fern type specimens are estimated to exceed 7,000, representing around 20 per cent of published fern names.


Extant ferns 255,000

Lycophytes 25,000

Type specimens

Extant ferns 6,600

Lycophytes 400

Material type

Herbarium sheets 275,000

Spirit collection 1,000

Microscope preparations 400

Unicorporated collections 60,000

Important collections

  • Carl Christensen's Herbarium
  • John Smith's Herbarium
  • A.H.G. Alston
  • Clive Jermy
  • Trevor Walker
  • Christopher Fraser-Jenkins
  • Irene Manton
  • Irene Manton's research students, including Anne Sleep and Mary Gibby

Looking for a specimen?

The fern collection is being digitised

Any Questions?

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

Senior curator

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.