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.

The collection currently comprises an estimated 900,000 dry preserved specimens in the herbarium. The preserved boards, often accompanied by 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 stored in two main groups: the France Herbarium and the General Herbarium (Europe, America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, the Pacific Islands and the Antarctic). Other collections are stored separately because of their historic, geographic and taxonomic importance. The Montagne Herbarium (containing several hundred types), the Thuret-Bornet Herbarium and the Potier de la Varde Herbarium. In addition there are a hundred or so isolated collections which are of interest due to their age or provenance (Bonaparte Herbarium, Allorge Herbarium, Gaume Herbarium, etc.).

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 Camille 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. The collections of Potier de la Varde, Thériot, Tixier and Bizot contain many non-European species and types.

This collection is used for taxonomy, phylogeny, biodiversity, genetics, ecology and biogeography studies by the Muséum’s researchers and professional and amateur bryologists from France and abroad. Historical studies of the botanists’ networks and naturalist practices are currently under way. Loans and visitor services are managed by Catherine Rausch de Traubenberg and Lionel Kervran.

Head of Conservation: Catherine Rausch de Traubenberg