Lichen collections

The National Herbarium of Victoria (MEL) houses 1.2 million botanical specimens from around the world. Approximately 45,000 of these are lichen specimens, of which over 500 are type specimens.

The Australian lichen collections at MEL date back to the first half of the nineteenth century and include specimens collected from all over Australia. The vast majority of MEL's 32,000 Australian lichen collections have been databased. Collecting information for these specimens is available via Australia’s Virtual Herbarium.

Significant nineteenth-century Australian collectors include Ferdinand von Mueller, Richard Bastow and Francis Wilson. More recent lichen collectors of note include Jim Willis, Cliff Beauglehole, Jack Elix and Kathleen Ralston. One other notable collector is John Whinray, whose contribution from the Furneaux group of islands north of Tasmania provides a comprehensive record of its lichen flora. MEL currently holds over 1,000 of Whinray's lichen collections from this region.

The foreign lichen collection, which totals approximately 25,000 specimens, includes material from all continents and is particularly rich in nineteenth-century collections from Europe. The bulk of MEL's foreign lichen collection was acquired in 1883 from the herbarium of German botanist Otto Sonder.

MEL also houses a significant collection of over 3,000 Antarctic and subantarctic lichens. Most noteworthy are those from Rex Filson, a keen field naturalist and botanical collector who investigated the lichens of MacRobertson Land, Antarctica, as a member of the 1962 Mawson party of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions. Following these studies, he wrote the first scientific monograph of Antarctic lichens and mosses to be published with illustrations in colour, which has now become an important work in the field of Antarctic biology.

At MEL, lichens are stored in packets and housed alphabetically by genus and species. All our Australian lichen taxa have been updated in accordance with the names established in the Checklist of the lichens of Australia and its island territories.

Volunteers play a vital role in curating the lichen collection at MEL. A recently completed project involved the curation of over 6,000 foreign lichens derived from the herbarium of Otto Sonder, a task that took over four years.

A broad network of collectors contribute material to MEL's collection. Our guidelines for preparing herbarium specimens provide further information. To enquire about donating specimens to the National Herbarium of Victoria, please contact the Collections Manager.

Further information

Filson, R.B. (1966). The lichens and mosses of Mac.Robertson Land. ANARE Scientific Reports Series B (II). Botany 82.

McCarthy, P.M. (2006). Checklist of the lichens of Australia and its island territories. Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. Version 26 July 2010.