Bryophyte collections

The extensive holdings of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (MEL) held at the National Herbarium of Victoria include a collection of approximately 73,000 bryophyte (liverwort, hornwort and moss) specimens. Amongst the collection are almost 600 moss and about 160 liverwort type specimens. The majority of MEL’s bryophyte collection is from Australia, but includes specimens from all continents.

The bryophyte collection includes a number of important historical collections, including those made by Ferdinand Mueller and other early leading bryologists in Australia: Rev. William W. Watts (NSW), William Weymouth (Tas.), Thomas Whitelegge (NSW) and  Richard A. Bastow, who compiled a list of moss species for Tasmania and produced the first Illustrated key to genera of Tasmanian mosses.

More recent bryophyte collections include those made by Jim Willis and Cliff Beauglehole, who collected mainly in Victoria; John Whinray, whose collections document the bryophyte species from the Furneaux Group of islands north of Tasmania; and Rex Filson’s collections from Mac. Robertson Land, Antarctica. One of the most significant contemporary collections held at MEL is that of Ilma G. Stone. This recent acquisition of over 20,000 collections documents moss distribution throughout Australia, especially Victoria and Queensland. The Mosses of Southern Australia (1976) was co-authored by Ilma Stone and George Scott, and was beautifully illustrated by Celia Rosser.

The foreign bryophyte collection, most probably acquired as part of the Sonder herbarium, includes material from all continents and is particularly rich in specimens collected in the 19th century. Collections made and distributed as duplicates by Franz Wilhelm Sieber, including a number of moss and liverwort type specimens, have recently been discovered amongst this material. The collection is also known to hold a significant number of duplicate liverwort specimens collected by William Colenso (1811–1899) in New Zealand. Unfortunately much of this collection remains within strawboards waiting to be curated and databased.

All of the Australian bryophyte collection has been curated, and collecting data for the databased specimens is available via Australia’s Virtual Herbarium.

Further information

ABRS (2006). Flora of Australia, vol. 51, Mosses 1. Australian Biological Resources Study Canberra/CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Filson, R.B. (1966). The lichens and mosses of Mac..Robertson Land (Australian Antarctic Territory). Publication no. 82, ANARE Scientific Reports Series B (II) Botany. Antarctic Division, Department of External Affairs, Melbourne.

Ramsay, H.P. (n.d.). History of Research on Australian mosses. Department of Environment, Canberra.

Scott, G.A.M. and Stone, I.G. (1976). The mosses of southern Australia. Academic Press, London.