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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBGK)

RBGK has the largest living plant reference collections in Europe and an extensive preserved collection of vascular plant material and fungi. It will offer access to the: Library, Art and Archive reference collections, herbarium collections (8 million specimens); Spirit collection (70,000); economic botany collection (80,000); Living collections (40,000 taxa); Seed Bank with over 10% of the World’s Flora.

Department  Collection highlights and staff expertise   
Herbarium Historical collections from India, West Africa, Sub-saharan Africa and tropical AmericaDigital image capture and databasingNomenclature, taxonomy, multi-access identification keys, e taxonomyLargest preserved collection of fungi globallyCollections management
Living collections Largest collection of living temperate vascular plants from all regions of the world
Jodrell Laboratory

Systematic anatomy of plantsMolecular systematics of higher plantsSecondary plant chemistry and biological activity
Library 150,000 books, 200,000 botanical drawings and 4,000 journal titles
Seed Conservation World’s biggest seed bank of wild-collected seedSeed collections managementSeed physiology

Supporting Facilities and Services

Access to the material in RBGK’s herbarium, fungarium, library, art and archive collections and digitisation facilities, DNA bank, genome analysis and molecular systematics suite, and organic chemistry laboratories (complementary NHM’s molecular biology unit and comparative strength in inorganic chemical analysis); Seed physiology research facilities and access to the Millennium Seed Bank  collections. Users will be integrated into RBGK research including collaborating with the leading plant research institutions in Europe.

For a full list of the equipment that Users can apply to use, click here.

Information Technology and Access

All of the living collections are databased. The living collections database and parts of the herbarium collection can be searched via the web. New imaging equipment is available to Users. RBGK has very significant plant databases a including the International Plant Names Index, the plant list and world checklist of selected plant families; SEPASAL (the survey of economic plants from arid and semi arid lands), the DNA c-value database and library catalogue.

Research supported by the infrastructure

The major thrust of the organisation’s activity is aligned around the Breathing Planet Programme in order to address the major environmental challenge we face today. There are seven key strategies:

1 Accelerating discovery and global access to plant and fungal diversity information. Discovering, collating and accelerating global access to essential information on plant and fungal diversity, through fundamental science, enhanced collection programmes and data-capture, including baseline information, applied Geographical Information Systems and novel identification tools such as web-based Floras and DNA barcoding.

2 Mapping and prioritising. Identifying plant and fungal species and regions of the world most at risk of losing their wild diversity, to enable priority setting for conservation programmes, with the application of cutting edge IT and GIS approaches where they can enhance this process.

3 Conserving what remains. Helping implement global plant and fungal conservation programmes, such as the creation of new, sustainably managed areas, through established and new partnerships, in countries richest in diversity and geographical extent of remaining wild vegetation.

4 Sustainable local use. Expanding plant and fungal diversity knowledge and Kew’s innovative science programmes to the identification and successful use of locally-appropriate plant species under changing climatic regimes on agricultural, urban and suburban lands.

5 Seed banking through the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. Extending the Millennium Seed Bank’s global partnership programmes to secure in safe storage 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020, targeting species and regions most at risk from climate change.

6 Restoration ecology. Establishing a global network of partners in restoration ecology to facilitate the use of seed banks and other botanic garden resources in the urgent repair and re-establishment of damaged native vegetation.

7 Inspiring through botanic gardens ‘Kew for You’ – delivering enjoyable, inspiring experiences and horticultural displays that transform people’s understanding of plant diversity and conservation and their relevance to environmental challenges worldwide.

Recent highlights

Kew in partnership with several other institutions launched two major resources for understanding plant science.  The Plant List provides a working list of known plant species and the Sampled Red List Index for Plants provided for the first time an over view of the extinction risk of plant species globally.

Major recent publications included: a study of how medicinal plants are distributed across the flowering plant phylogeny; the completion of the Flora of Tropical East Africa; the effect of climate change to the distribution of coffee; the phylogenetic relationships of Madagascan endemic genera; and the extinction threat to crop wild relatives. A DNA bank of UK fungi has been initiated and the UK national seed hub has been launched to support restoration efforts across the full spectrum of UK habitats.

Institution info

London, England


Institution info

London, England