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Kew Science blog

Explore some of the research and activities of our global science and conservation programmes. Keep up to date with current developments in Kew science and science policy.
Image showing the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), previously thought to be related to the true waterlilies, but now known to be more closely related to plane trees and banksias
9th May 2016

APG - classification by consensus

Kew scientist Mike Fay discusses the issues with classifying flowering plant species, and the efforts made by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG) to reclassify species using technological advances in DNA sequencing.

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A large piece of tapa showing multi-legged creatures, probably made in the Cook Islands and dating to 1820-50. Just four pieces are known with this design in other museums – and all have an obscure origin (Photo: F.Lennard)
3rd May 2016

Unpacking tapa: the science and culture of Pacific barkcloth

Mark Nesbitt, Research Leader for Economic Botany, reports on a major new research project using Kew’s historic collections.

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Fruit market in Sucre (Photo: G. Lewis)
25th April 2016

Bolivian Botanical Conference in Sucre

Kew scientist Bente Klitgård reports back from the 3rd Bolivian Botanical Conference in Sucre, and explains the importance of scientific conferences.

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A lab full of plant samples ready to burn (Photo S. Wyse)
18th April 2016

Assessing the flammability of New Zealand plants

Sarah Wyse, an Early Career Research Fellow in our Collections Department, describes the first empirical study to measure the flammability of a range New Zealand plant species, recently published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire.

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Image showing the results of a prolific day of plant and fungus collecting in Madagascar
11th April 2016

Tales from the tropics

Kew MSc students write home from Madagascar, where they are currently in the field.

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5th April 2016

Experts to gather at Kew to discuss the State of the World's Plants

Kew science officer Laura Rozario reveals the hot topics to be discussed in the forthcoming State of the World’s Plants Symposium to be held at Kew this May.

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Participants on the CWR Malaysia training course search for crop wild relatives
29th March 2016

Gaps in global wild crop collections

Danielle Haddad and Ruth Harker report on the results of the global gap analysis paper 'Global Conservation Priorities for Crop Wild Relatives', published in Nature Plants on 21 March 2016.

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Ectadiopsis thulinii, the type specimen grown to flower in Brentford (Photo: M.Gilbert)
8th March 2016

Kew's successful year of discoveries

In 2015, Kew scientists and their collaborators from around the world published 149 species of plants and fungi new to science, as reported in the Independent on Sunday. Martin Cheek reveals the stories behind the species.

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Aerial view of tropical forest (Image: William Milliken)
4th February 2016

Blood, sweat and DNA: exploring the unknown Amazon

Kew’s Orchid Festival, opening this week with a Brazilian theme, features a new short film following an expedition along the French Guiana-Brazil border. The film examines how modern techniques and equipment, coupled with old-fashioned exploration, can help fill voids in our knowledge of the Amazon flora.

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Volunteers surveying for the rust fungus Puccinia scorzonerae on Scorzonera humilis (viper's-grass) (Photo: T. Wilkins)
1st February 2016

The Lost and Found Fungi project

Brian Douglas describes how the Lost and Found Fungi project at Kew aims to help develop British fungal conservation, by trying to find out which 'lost' species are truly extinct and which species are simply under-recorded due to lack of survey work.

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The seeds of Abrus precatorius L., widely used for jewellery, contain a potent toxin. MPNS has collated c 70 names of use within the pharmaceutical literature as well as 8 different scientific synonyms. (Photo: G.Lewis)
26th January 2016

Kew’s Plant Names Services adopted by global health regulators

Bob Allkin explains how Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) is involved in helping the world’s health regulators to ensure that herbal products are traded safely by supporting development of an important new medicinal standard.

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Foxglove (Digitalis pupurea) with terminal peloric flower (Photo: P.J. Rudall)
11th January 2016

Weird and wonderful foxgloves

Paula Rudall, Head of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, reflects on how careful observation can reveal weird and wonderful structures.

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Cactaceae are amongst the most threatened species in Brazil. Cipocereus bradei is a fascinating endemic the Espinhaço Range in central Minas Gerais (Photo: N.Taylor)
4th January 2016

Growing knowledge: the Brazilian List of plants and fungi

Daniela Zappi, one of 575 authors of the second edition of the Brazilian List of Plants and Fungi, explains how this project has improved knowledge of her native country’s biodiversity.

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Botanical ingredients of a Christmas pudding (Photo: M. Fay)
16th December 2015

The botanical origins of a Victorian Christmas pudding

Have you ever thought about the botany behind a traditional Christmas pudding? Here Michael Fay reveals the botanical secrets of an old family recipe.

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Coffea arabica fruits, known by coffee farmers as 'cherry' (Photo: A.P.Davis)
15th December 2015

Coffee chemistry and the search for the tasty, pest-free bean

Paul Green and Aaron Davis explain how scientists at Kew and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are exploring some interesting areas for future research to combat coffee pests, using naturally occurring coffee chemicals and pesticidal plants.

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Achuar household (Photo: P.Giovannini)
7th December 2015

Medicinal plant knowledge shared amongst Amazonian ethnic groups

Peter Giovannini describes his study on the traditional knowledge of the Achuar (Jivaro) and how this relates to the knowledge of other Amazonian ethnic groups.

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Collecting seed of Brahea armata (blue hesper palm) endemic to Baja California (Image: W.Stuppy)
23rd November 2015

Saving the endemic and endangered flora of Baja California, Mexico

Michael Way describes the importance of an integrated plant conservation strategy for the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

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A ridge of the Chimanimani Mountains, viewed from a school compound in the Zomba area (Photo: M.Cheek)
16th November 2015

From the forests and woodland of Mozambique

Martin Cheek describes his recent expedition surveying and collecting specimens from remote, virtually unexplored regions of Manica, Mozambique, guided by the knowledge of local communities.

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Melocactus azureus grows on limestone outcrops in Bahia and is Critically Endangered (Photo: N.P. Taylor)
1st November 2015

The most threatened cacti

Kew botanist Daniela Zappi is one of the authors of a paper highlighting the extinction risk faced by the charismatic cactus family, and is involved in helping the Brazilian government to improve the measures taken to protect cactus species.

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Scans produced with 10x objective and extended depth of field showing transverse sections: (L>R) Swietenia humilis (standard hardwood) and Dalbergia retusa (non-standard hardwood) (Photo: A.Musson)
26th October 2015

Digitising Kew's microscope slide collection

Members of Kew's Lab-based Collections team describe the first steps in the process of digitising Kew's large and diverse microscope slide collection, which includes thin sections of leaves, stems, roots, wood, flowers and pollen.

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