Bryophytes

The bryophyte collection includes mosses, liverworts, sphagnum mosses and hornworts. It accounts for around 10% of all the herbarium specimens preserved at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle. The many types (several thousand) contained within the collection make it an essential resource for the bryology community.

Presentation

The Museum's collection of bryophytes is estimated at just under one million dry specimens preserved in herbaria. It represents about 12% of all specimens preserved in the national herbarium. This collection is among the most important in the world. The many types (several tens of thousands) contained within the collection make it an essential resource for the community of bryologists.

The term bryophyte groups together chlorophyll plants more commonly known as mosses, liverworts and hornworts. These plants colonize all terrestrial and aquatic environments, with the exception of the marine environment.

History

The bryophyte collection was based on the collection of the Muséum’s botany chair. The oldest specimens are those collected in the Paris region circa 1700 by Sébastien Vaillant, professor of botany in the Jardin du Roi (King’s Garden, now known as the Jardin des Plantes). In the 18th and 19th centuries, the great journeys and expeditions (Napoleon’s scientific expedition in Egypt, the scientific exploration in Algeria, etc.) and the circumnavigation trips (Bougainville aboard the Etoile or Dumont d’Urville aboard the Astrolabe, etc.) contributed to its enrichment.

A whole host of travellers and collectors also brought specimens from faraway lands for three centuries. The bryophyte collection in particular contains harvests by great cryptogamists such as J.B. Mougeot and C. Montagne, and specialists from the 19th and 20th centuries such as W.P. Schimper, P. T. Husnot, F. Camus, E. Bescherelle, I. Thériot, R. Potier de la Varde, P. and V. Allorge, M. Bizot, the Brothers of the Christian Schools and more recently, P. Tixier, S. Jovet and H. Bischler.

Description

The specimens are most often packaged in envelopes, themselves attached to herbarium boards held together in bundles. The preserved plates, often associated with drawings and notes, provide a basis for research into the botanists’ and collectors’ networks, the evolution of naturalist practices and the history of the zones explored.

The bryophyte specimens are kept in two distinct groups: a general herbarium and private collections.

  • The general herbarium is the result of the integration of various collections and the regular supply of donations. This herbarium is hierarchically classified according to (1) taxonomic ranks (Anthocerotidae Engl.; Bryidae Engl.; Marchantiidae Engl.), (2) geographic area and (3) alphabetical order of genus and species.
  • Private collections are kept independently: (1) by testamentary obligation or decision of the legatee (herbaria of C. Montagne, G. Thuret - E. Bornet, R. Potier de la Varde, J. Werner), (2) for reasons that are both historical, geographical and taxonomic (herbaria of E. Cosson, J. Cardot, P. Allorge,… as well as numerous exsiccati) and (3) for lack of human resources to integrate them into the general herbarium. These particular collections are for the most part classified according to classification concepts and not in alphabetical order.

Operation

At present, 160,000 specimens are computerized, about 16% of the collection. The computerization of bryological collections is the result of two approaches resulting either from the day-to-day management of the herbarium (loans, visits and donations), or from specific projects. This collection will constitute a database of past biodiversity and presents bryophytes, all the more efficient as the computerization of the data is advanced.

With initial support from JSTOR's Global Plants project, 36,000 type specimens were computerized and digitized. However, the entire herbarium has not been inventoried, and many type specimens remain to be identified.

Three people participate in the management of this collection: Amandine Allard, Lionel Kervran and Sébastien Leblond.

Contact

Curator

Sébastien Leblond
sebastien.leblond [@] mnhn.fr

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