The fungi collection is gathered together in a "fungarium" (as opposed to a "herbarium", which is for plant collections only). It includes not only mushrooms (the Mycota kingdom), including microscopic ones that are invisible to the naked eye, but also oomycetes (Chromista kingdom) and myxomycetes (Protista kingdom).
The Muséum’s fungarium is one of the world’s largest collections of fungal organisms and is particularly interesting due to the large number of historical collections containing many type specimens. A large part of the reference specimens for metropolitan France are present in the mycology herbarium, as well as many specimens from the former French colonies, and current overseas territories.
In contrast to the consistent use of herbarium boards in phanerogamy, the conservation methods for the mycology collections vary greatly. Most of the dried specimens are preserved in cardboard boxes or matchboxes (especially for the myxomycetes), pill boxes, bound books or envelopes fixed to herbarium boards. Currently, newly collected specimens are mostly stored in zip-lock plastic bags of varying sizes. Dry specimens are often accompanied by drawings, watercolours or photos, and sometimes come with more or less detailed notes taken in the field. Some old collections of tropical fungi are still preserved in alcohol or formalin (stored away from the herbarium area: Alcoothèque), while some very specific groups of microscopic fungi (e.g. Laboulbeniomycetes and Trichomycetes) are stored on microscope slides.
The fungal collection is continuously expanded via numerous field missions (B. Buyck, B. Duhem, etc.) around the world, as well as through the Museum’s inventory programmes (Mercantour, Mayotte, Madagascar, etc.), institutional exchanges, herbarium bequests and type deposits by a number of contemporary amateur and professional mycologists. To date, only a small fraction of the collections has been digitized and is accessible online. A large proportion of the activity surrounding the collections currently involves in-depth cataloguing work.
The fungarium partly consists of a general herbarium resulting from the merger of different collections of varying importance, and from the continual enrichment of the collection by the Museum’s researchers. It is organised according to the major systematic groups (chytridio-, asco-, basidiomycetes, etc…) and then follows an alphabetical order by genus and species.
Some parts of the collection are maintained in as separate entities, specifically for historical, practical or legal reasons, and are not incorporated into the general herbarium, these include the herbaria of E. Boudier, A. Maublanc, J.H. Léveillé, J.B.H.J. Desmazières, A.L.A Fée, D.F. Delise, H. Bourdot & A. Galzin, A.M. Hue, P.L. Crouan, J. Blum, R. Heim, G. Viennot-Bourgin, G. Métrod, H. Romagnési, R. Henry, B. Buyck and B. Duhem. The collections of C. Montagne and G.A.Thuret & J.B.E. Bornet are of particular importance due to their size and the fact that they encompass all of the "cryptogams".
A certain number of prestigious mycologists and lichenologists are represented in the general herbarium by the specimens they have harvested, studied or exchanged: C.H. Persoon, L. Dufour, W. Nylander H.A. Weddell, J. Müller (Argoviensis), G. de Notaris, C. & L.R Tulasne, M. Leprieur and L. Quélet.
Following the recent upheavals in fungal classification, the collections are still actively supporting the many international taxonomic research projects aiming to define, group, name and describe fungal species, 95% of which still have no scientific name. The fungal collections also provided inspiration and educational support for the Salon du Champignon (Mushroom Fair), which was held during one century (1904 to 2004) at the Jardin des Plantes.
In recent years, they are more and more used in molecular studies aiming to contribute to our knowledge of the evolutionary history of each fungal clade. To this end, since 2005, newly deposited specimens are usually accompanied by tubes containing pieces of fresh tissue preserved in CTAB (Cetyl trimethylammonium bromide), a physiological buffer that enables optimal preservation of fungus DNA at room temperature. Thus, this collection, presently of around 9,000 tubes, enables more effective use of the specimens based on DNA sequencing, particularly in the case of multigene phylogenetic studies.
The mycology herbarium is the responsibility of two heads of conservation, Bruno Dennetière for the lichenised species (in symbiosis with algae) and Bart Buyck for the other species and the tissue collection. Only loans and consultations of lichenised species are managed with the assistance of Lionel Kervran.