Botanical collections

kroonrooste (Puccinia coronata)

Botanical and mycological herbarium (acronym TU) is the oldest herbarium in Estonia, also the largest, founded in 1802. The botany collection holds 282 989 specimens of vascular plants, bryophytes and macroalgae, including type specimens of 51 taxa, these numbers describe the collections in 2014.

The oldest dated herbarium sheet in the collection comes from 1819, the oldest dated herbarium sheet collected from Estonian grounds comes from 1834. The materials have mostly been collected by the staff of the University of Tartu, supplementing the collections has been a part of botanical research. The collections have grown by donations from private collections as well. The Herbarium Generale holds specimens from all over the world, many of these have been taken in by exchange from other herbaria. Today collections usually grow when the materials from expeditions and fieldwork are taken in, less by exchanges or donations. Of the Estonian herbariums, the TU keeps the largest collection of botanical materials from abroad (mostly from Russia, but also from Australia, e.g.).

The herbarium of vascular plants includes (1) the Herbarium Generale of an estimated 200 000 specimens, most of which have been collected from the area of the former Russian Empire (later Soviet Union) and (2) the Plantae Estonicae of 72 666 specimens (in 2013).

The bryophyte herbarium includes valuable historical collections and 16 collections of exsiccata (of an estimated 8 000 specimens), the herbarium holds materials collected from abroad as well, an estimated 6 000 specimens of about 1 500 taxa. Type specimens of 3 bryophyte taxa are preserved there. The collection of Estonian mosses is representative as well, in 2014 it included 9 077 specimens of about 520 taxa.

The algae collections include the herbarium of macroalgae (823 herbarium sheets in the beginning of 2014), the collection of microalgae (ca 1000 specimens) and the collection of the figures of algae (iconothèque) of an estimated 14 000 sheets of sketches and descriptions of algae taxa.

The lichen collection holds an estimated 75 000 specimens of lichens, oldest of which come from the late 19th century. In the lichen collection the materials collected from Estonia (Herbarium Estoniae) and materials collected from abroad (Herbarium Generale) are kept separately. Most of the lichens preserved in the Estonian collection have been gathered in the second half of the 20th century in many different scientific projects. The largest and most valuable part of the general collection of lichens – ca 20 000 specimens – was brought from the Estonian scientists’ expeditions to the Russian Far East and the area of Baikal. The collection of over 3500 specimens from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea is remarkable also. In the lichen collection 65 type specimens of species and intraspecific taxa are preserved.

The older part of the University of Tartu fungi collection (mostly Agaricales) were deposited in 1969 in the fungi collection of the Estonian University of Life Sciences. Most of the 11 000 specimens were gathered by Kuulo Kalamees and his students in 1958–1969. Materials gathered in the 21st century are preserved in the Tartu University building in Ravila 14A. In recent years the fungi collection of the University of Tartu Natural History Museum has grown fast via the scientific expeditions all over the world. In few recent years type specimens of 12 new species have been deposited here.

General guidelines for working with botanical and mycological collections

Database of Estonian plant collections

Information about botanical collections in Estonian Research Portal

Kai Vellak
Head of the botanical and mycological museum
Phone +372 737 6229