The Kew Fungarium is the largest and most comprehensive in the world, containing an estimated 1.25 million specimens, including the British National Collections (est. 300,000 specimens), the IMI collections (est. 400,000 specimens), and approximately 50,000 type specimens. Linked with this is a collection of c. 15,000 microscope slides which cover most groups of fungi and include important series of slides from W. Joshua, G. Lister, J.E. Vize (GB), and from J. Tempère & E. Dutertre (France), with much type material included. Many early and modern personal collections are represented, as well as example sets of all major exsiccatae. These collections represent a unique and irreplaceable international resource.

The Mycological Library has one of the most extensive collections of taxonomic literature on fungi in the world, comprising books, periodicals, offprints, and a unique collection of c. 40,000 original illustrations. The British Mycological Society library is housed separately within the Jodrell Laboratory, together with the BMS image collection.


Mycology at Kew was initiated with the appointment by Joseph Hooker of M.C. Cooke as curator of Thallophytes ("lower plants") in 1879. This coincided with the gift of the Rev. M.J. Berkeley's mycological collection, numbering some 20,000 specimens from around the world. Berkeley, dubbed the "founding father of British mycology", was one of the most celebrated mycologists of his day, describing over 600 new species, including material collected by Darwin, Hooker, and the HMS Challenger Expedition. Cooke himself had a substantial herbarium, particularly strong in Australian specimens, and both he and Berkeley exchanged specimens with other leading nineteenth century mycologists such as J.H. Léveillé, J.P. Montagne and C. Vittadini, as well as receiving large quantities of British and overseas specimens for description and determination.

George Massee succeeded Cooke in 1892, followed by E.M. Wakefield in 1911, both continuing the tradition of identification, description, and exchange established by Cooke. Most of the work relating to overseas plant pathology ceased with the establishment of the Imperial Bureau of Mycology in 1920 (better known as the Imperial Mycological Institute to which it was renamed in 1930). After R.W.G. Dennis became head of mycology in 1944, Kew mycologists had the opportunity to collect overseas, leading to the publication of a series of important regional mycotas.

In 1961, under the Morton Agreement, the mycological collections of the Natural History Museum (except for lichenized fungi) were transferred to Kew, substantially increasing the collections. D.A. Reid became head of mycology in 1975, D.N. Pegler in 1987, and B.M. Spooner in 1998. In 2009, the extensive collections of microfungi and plant pathogenic fungi held by CABI (the IMI collections) were transferred to Kew to create the largest collection of dried fungi in the world. B.T.M. Dentinger succeeded B.M. Spooner in 2012 and is the current head of section.


The Fungarium includes all groups of fungi and is worldwide in coverage. It concentrates on the Ascomycota and Basidiomycota (Kingdom Fungi), including anamorphic fungi (coelomycetes, hyphomycetes), but has substantial holdings also of Chytridiomycota and Zygomycota, as well as fungal analogues from the Oomycota (water moulds) and Myxomycota (slime moulds).
The Fungarium is split into the British National Collections (held under the National Heritage Act) and the Overseas Collections. All collections (except the Myxomycota and some material maintained in spirit) are kept in green boxes in compactor units.

Since 1995, details of all new accessions have been databased into a system called "Herbtrack" developed at Kew. Specimens sent out on loan have also been databased, as have recurated specimens. Currently, some 150,000 specimens are included in this electronic resource. Herbtrack generates standard labels for specimens and allows information to be accessed by country, county, habitat, host, etc., as well as by genus and species.

Around 3-4,000 specimens are added to the Fungarium each year, from a variety of sources. British specimens are collected on field trips and day forays by staff, and are received from members of the British Mycological Society, researchers involved in survey work, and the public. Overseas specimens are collected by staff or received in exchange with other collections. The policy is to maintain, extend and enhance our reference collection of fungal species worldwide.


British Isles:
The British National Collections comprise around 300,000 specimens, covering the whole of the UK. Based on it's long history the collection is likely to contain specimens representing a significant proportion of the genera known to occur in the UK.

The British Collections include important early material from the 1780s onwards, including the surviving specimens of J. Bolton and J. Sowerby, and the more extensive nineteenth century collections of W. Baxter, M.J. Berkeley, A. Bloxam, W. Borrer, D.A. Boyd, C.E. Broome, D. Carmichael, M.C. Cooke, C. Crossland, F. Currey, E. Forster, H.C. Hawley, H.J. Howard, W. Joshua, J. Keith, J.F. Klotzsh, W.A. Leighton, J. Lightfoot, W. Phillips, C.B. Plowright, T. Purton, T. Salwey, W.G. Smith, J. Stevenson, G.H.K. Thwaites, and J.E. Vize. Significant twentieth century collections include those of E.J.H. Corner, A.D. Cotton, R.W.G. Dennis, W.B. Grove, L.E. Hawker, A. Lister, P.D.Orton, J.T. Palmer, A.A. Pearson, T. Petch, C.B. Plowright, C. Rea, D.A. Reid, E.S. Salmon, and E.M. Wakefield. Recently incorporated collections include those of the late M.C. Clark, E.A. Ellis, and W.D. Graddon.

The national collections contain over 3000 type specimens of species originally described from the UK. They are actively being curated, databased, and used for day-to-day determinations and research.

The Overseas Collections comprise around 500,000 specimens, are worldwide in scope, and include representatives of all major (and most minor) genera of the Basidiomycota, Ascomycota (including some lichenized species), and Myxomycota.

Of particular importance are the early North American collections of L.D. von Schweinitz (dubbed "the first American mycologist"). M.A. Curtis (whose extensive collections were described by Berkeley), H.W. Ravenel, and T.G. Lea, together with exsiccatae and exchange material from J.B. Ellis, W.G. Farlow, J.F.C. Montagne, C.H. Peck, and others. These are extremely rich in type specimens and represent one of the most important collections of North American fungi. They are supplemented by more recent exsiccatae and exchange material.

Also of importance are the Caribbean and South American collections, notably the early collections of C. Wright (Cuba), A. Fendler (Venezuela), F.M.R. Leprieure (French Guyana), A. Sallé (Hispaniola), C. Spegazzini (temperate and subtropical S America), R. Spruce (Brazil), and J.W.H. Trail (Brazil) and which are rich in types. Important later collections include those of R.W.G. Dennis (Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica), E.B. Martyn (British Guiana), D.N. Pegler (Brazil, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique), J.P. Fiard (Martinique), T. Læssøe (Brazil, Ecuador), K. Hjortstam (Brazil), and P.J. Roberts (Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela). These collections are the subject of ongoing research and publications.

Substantial African collections were obtained from exploratory expeditions and colonial government mycologists, notably those based in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa; those by P.B. Ayres (Mauritius), C.O. Farquharson (Nigeria), P. McOwan (South Africa) and the macrofungal collections of F.C. Deighton (Sierra Leone) are especially notable. More recent important collections are those of D.M. Dring, D.N. Pegler (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), P.J. Roberts (Cameroon), D. Shah-Smith (Zambia), and G.D. Piearce (Zambia). These collections are the subject of ongoing research and publications. Important early Asian collections include those of A. Barclay (Himalayas); J.D. Hooker (Himalayas), T. Petch (Sri Lanka), and G.H.K. Thwaites (Sri Lanka), all of which are rich in type collections. The collections of T.F. Chipp (Malaya) and C.G. Hansford (Sri Lanka) are also at Kew.

The Australian and New Zealand collections are probably the most important globally, with early material dating back to exploratory expeditions by W. Archer, F.M. Bailey, J. Drummond, F.J.H. von Mueller and W. Colenso. Most early type specimens of Australian fungi were described by M.J. Berkeley or M.C. Cooke and are at Kew. Important recent collections include those of B.M. Spooner (Australia), G.H. Cunningham (New Zealand), N.H. Sinnott (Australia), and D.A. Reid (Australia). Pacific Islands collections by R.B. Hinds are also at Kew. The most important Macaronesian collections are those from the Azores by R.W.G. Dennis, B.M. Spooner, and G.B. Butterfill. These are the most extensive collections of Azorean fungi anywhere and are the subject of ongoing research and publications.

European collections are wide-ranging and complement the British collections. Much of the early material came from exchange and exsiccatae sets and is rich in isotype specimens. This is supplemented by later field collections and exchanges.


Dr B.T.M. Dentinger (Head of Section)
Dr P.F. Cannon (Principal Mycologist)
Dr P.M. Kirk (Senior Mycologist/Bioinformatician)
Dr A.M. Ainsworth (Senior Mycologist/Fungal Conservationist)
Dr L. Martinez-Suz (Research Assistant)
Dr H. Döring (Laboratory Manager/Taxonomic Mycologist)
Dr B. Aguirre-Hudson (Fungarium Manager)
Shannon Henk (Mycology Digitisation Officer)