The Great North Museum’s extensive botany collections include over 70,000 specimens. Many of the specimens are from historically important collections, some of which are almost 200 years old. Local species from Northern England are very well represented, alongside a significant number of foreign specimens. The collections have support significant research and the opportunities for future investigation are boundless.

Flowering Plants

The museum has particularly strong collections of flowering plants, with upwards of 60,000 specimens. It includes the nationally important herbarium of 19th Century plant ecologist Nathaniel John Winch as well as nearly 70 other named collections. These include collections from George R. Tate, co-author of A New Flora of Northumberland and Durham (1868), the definitive work of its kind for well over 100 years; prominent 20th century botanist Professor J.W. Heslop-Harrison, and more recently the Swann collection of flowering plants from Northumberland.

Marine and freshwater algae

The museum’s collection of marine algae the Great North Museum includes over 5,000 specimens of British marine and freshwater species. Important collections include the George Brady collection of British seaweeds, as well as smaller collections of specimens collected from Northumberland by William Robinson, potentially important because of the early date of collection (c. 1810). More recent material includes the Lacey collection of British seaweeds and the Wilson collection of North Sea phytoplankton.


The museum holds a large collection of mosses, including a very strong collection of local material. The largest single collection, the Evelyn Lobley collection, comprises about 4,500 specimens donated in the early and mid-parts of the 20th Century. Other important collections include over a thousand mosses from Britain and Scandinavia collected by John Bishop Duncan.


The museum’s lichen herbarium contains several thousand specimens including a number of interesting and significant collections. In particular, there are several very early collections by William Mudd - a major figure in the development of lichenology during the 19th Century.  Other important lichen collections include those of William Gardiner, who worked on the Flora of Angus, and the Rev. William Johnston. More recent material includes specimens collected by Dr Oliver Gilbert used to produce the Lichen Flora of Northumberland.