Finnish Museum of Natural History

Botanical and mycological collections

The herbarium contains circa 3.3 million herbarium specimens of plants and fungi. The annual increase is circa 20 000 specimens. The collections make up the national herbarium of Finland. About a half of them have been collected in Finland. However, the collections are worldwide: in addition to Finland and the neighbouring areas well represented are the Mediterranean, East Africa and southern South America, among others. Extensive and important new collections of bryophytes and fungi derive from East and Southeast Asia.

The material is mainly from the mid-1800s and more recent, because the collections of the Academy of Turku, forerunner of the Helsinki University, were destroyed in a fire in 1827. However, part of the Academy material survived, and the present collections include ca. 15 000 sheets of this old material, e.g. ca. 80 Linnaean specimens. As to the phanerogams, most important is Christian Steven's herbarium, mainly collected in the Caucasus Mts. and Crimea. Among the bryophytes, the herbarium includes V. F. Brotherus' and S. O. Lindberg's collections very important to the bryology of tropical areas and China. The lichen collections of Erik Acharius, the "Father of Lichenology", and William Nylander include significant materials from all over the world. P. A. Karsten’s fungus collections are also basic.

Type specimens of lichens and vascular plants (JSTOR) – specimens digitized from our museum's collections

Linnean specimens in the Botanical Museum

Collections of apomictic plants in the Botanical Museum

Bryophyte collections

The bryophyte collections in the Botanical Museum, University of Helsinki number ca. 700 000 specimens. The collections are divided into East Fennoscandian herbarium and General herbarium. For historical reasons the East Fennoscandian collection contains, in addition to specimens from Finland, also specimens from neighboring areas in Russia. When Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy under Russian rule, Finnish botanists continuously explored areas such as Kola Peninsula, Lake Ladoga and remote parts of Karelia.

The specimens from outside Fennoscandia are kept in the General herbarium. In both these collections the hepatics and mosses are kept separate and arranged in alphabetical order.

In the Fennoskandian herbarium the order of material is arranged according to the biogeographical provinces, and in the General herbarium according to continents and, if material is rich enough, according to the countries.

In addition to East Fennoscandian and General herbaria, four collections, Dillenius’ collection, S. O. Lindberg collection, V. F. Brotherus collection and collection of exsiccata are kept separately. The latter contains old exciccata in which the leaves are bound together. In many herbaria these have been destroyed by clipping the specimens out from the original binds and including them among ordinary collections.

The yearly accessions to the bryophyte herbarium are published in Memoranda Soc. Fauna Flora Fennica.

The collections of the museum consist of ca. 700 000 specimens of mosses, liverworts, and algae, and, due to richness in type specimens of bryophytes, are one of the most significant collections in the world.

  • Brotherus Herbarium (H-BR): extra-European collection of V. F. Brotherus (1849–1929) includes ca. 83 000 moss specimens of 15 500 species and thousands of type specimens. Strong in Australia, Brazil, Caucasia, China, India, New Zealand, Patagonia. Important collections, e.g.: H. v. Handel-Mazzetti, K. Müller (Müll.Hal.), W. W. Watts, E. Ule.
  • Herbarium Lindberg (H-SOL): collection of S. O. Lindberg (1835–1889) includes ca. 48 000 specimens of
    5 000 moss and liverwort species and hundreds of type specimens. Worldwide.
  • Herbarium Generale: ca. 300 000 specimens. Worldwide; strong in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Scandinavia, Siberia, Taiwan, Tanzania, U.S.A., W. Europe. Plenty of recently collected specimens due to active specimen exchange with other herbaria and excursions especially to tropical areas. Important collections, e.g.: H. Buch, T. J. Koponen, R. Tuomikoski.
  • Herbarium Fennoscandiae orientalis: ca. 200 000 specimens. Finland, northwestern Russia.
  • Algae Collection: ca. 21 000 specimens.
  • Piippo, S. 1996: The past, present and some future aspects of the Finnish bryology. - State of Nordic bryology today and tomorrow. Abstracts and shorter communications from a meeting in Trondheim December 1995. NTNU Vitensk. Mus. Rapp. Bot. Ser. 1996-4: 6-14.

Person in charge of the bryological collectionsHead Curator Soili Stenroos

Fungal collections

The fungal collections at the Botanical Museum (H) are the most significant in Finland in terms of number of specimens and scientific value. Also internationally they are among the world's top collections, and some invaluable special collections add to their value.

The collections comprise c. 920 000 specimens, of which roughly half are lichens. Most specimens are placed in eastern Fennoscandia collections (Herbarium Fennoscandiae orientalis) meaning that they are collected in Finland and neighboring areas in Russian Karelia, the Kola Peninsula and the western part of Leningrad Oblast. The foreign collections (Fungi externi, Lichenes externi) include specimens from all over the rest of the world. In addition to the Nordic countries, the collection is particularly rich in specimens from Canada (lichens, polypores), Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia (lichens, microfungi), Northeast China (polypores) and East Africa (Agaricales, slime molds). Collections are further divided into systematic categories, such as Aphyllophorales, Ascomycetes, Agaricales, Deuteromycetes, Uredinales and Ustilaginales. Lichens are kept separately because of research traditions and practical reasons.

Lichen collections of E. Acharius (H-ACH, 5 500 specimens) and W. Nylander (H-NYL, 52 000 specimens) are stored separately. P. A. Karsten’s valuable specimens representing all groups of fungi are intercalated in the normal collections and Karsten’s type specimens have been databased. Other notable collections include J. I. Liro’s and Aarre Rauhala’s microfungi and Aino Henssen’s, Veli Räsänen’s, Matti Laurila’s and Gösta Lång’s lichens. We also have c. 260 series of exsiccatae, of which 160 are lichens and 100 other fungi. These are in part kept separately but mostly incorporated in the collections.

Our annual accessions are close to 10 000 specimens and consist of materials donated by staff and numerous aficionados. A significant number is received from other herbaria through international exchange relations. Also specimens collected through red list research are deposited in the collections.

The fungal collections serve our own researchers along with mycologist from all over the world. Approximately 70 loans are sent out per year containing about 1 500 specimens. Dozens of foreign researchers visit our collections every year.

Read also about digitization of type specimens.

Person in charge of the fungal collections: Head Curator Soili Stenroos

Important collections

Acharius Herbarium (H-ACH) is separately kept and includes about 5 500 specimens of lichens, brought together by the Swedish lichenologist Erik Acharius (1757–1819). Acharius, a pupil of Carl von Linné, was a Swedish physician, professor and knight and is known as the "Father of Lichenology". The collection is one of the most significant biological collections in our university. It contains hundreds of type specimens, including those described in Acharius's book "Lichenographia Universalis" (1810). No loans are normally sent out from this collection but visitors are allowed to study and photograph the material. The material primarily derives from Sweden, but also from other countries. It was bought from Sweden in 1834.

Nylander Herbarium (H-NYL) is another major collection that is kept separate. It comprises about 52 000 specimens of lichens (and some other fungi) from all over the world and includes an abundance of type specimens. The collection was received from the Finnish (- French) lichenologist William Nylander (1822–1899). Initially, Nylander was a medical doctor, then chose a career as an entomologist and finally focused on botany and lichens. He was appointed as the first Professor of Botany at our university in 1857 (then Imperial Alexander University), but resigned in 1863 and relocated to Paris, where he continued as a freelance scientist. Nylander's lichenological publications comprise over 300 titles and 4 000 pages and he described approximately 3 000 lichen taxa.

Karsten Collections are not kept separate but include a vast number of specimens representing all groups of fungi. The estimated number of types in the collection is more than 2 000. Petter Adolf Karsten (1834–1917), the "Father of Finnish mycology" and the pioneer of fungal microscopy, is one of the most notable among the mycologists of all time. His lifework was performed at Tammela, Finland, and he did research alongside his teaching duties as a lecturer in botany at the Mustiala Agriculture Institute (now the Faculty of Agriculture of Häme Polytechnic). Karsten participated in one expedition to Kola Peninsula, but worked on materials collected by others in, e.g., Siberia, France and Brazil. A large proportion of species described by Karsten still remains valid.

Aino Henssen.

Herbarium Aino Henssen includes over 30 000 specimens, most of which are lichens, from numerous countries. It was brought together and donated to Helsinki in 2011 by professor Aino Henssen (1925–2011) from the Botanisches Institut at Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany. Henssen often collected in Finland, her mother’s homeland. The collection is extremely significant because of Henssen’s pioneering research on many lichen groups, especially on their anatomy and ontogeny. The collection includes a vast number of photographs and preparations. Due to the large number of specimens the collection has not yet been fully organized.

Person in charge of the page: 
Marko Hyvärinen