The Spirit Collection
The spirit collection contains over 70,000 plant specimens, preserved in fluid and stored in glass jars. The collection was started in 1930 by Victor S. Summerhayes, who was curator of the orchid herbarium at that time.
The collection is rich in diversity, with 371 plant families represented. Much of the material consists of fleshy flowers and fruits that do not make good dried and pressed specimens. In particular, the 3-dimensional arrangements of flower-parts are better observed in spirit specimens. The collection is used most frequently by Herbarium staff, botanical artists and visiting taxonomists.
All specimens are stored in ‘Kew Mix’, which contains 53% industrial methylated spirit (98/99% total alcohols), 37% water, 5% formaldehyde solution (38%w/w) and 5% glycerol. The formaldehyde acts as a fixative, the alcohol as a preservative and the glycerol helps prevent the specimens from becoming brittle. Material is transferred temporarily into ‘Copenhagen Mix’ (70% industrial methylated spirit, 28% water and 2% glycerol) when it is removed from the collection for study. The collection is stored in a controlled temperature room, at 12-16°C, to reduce evaporation.
For further information about the spirit collection, please contact the curator:
Spirit Collection Manager
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Tel: +44 (0)20 8332 5203
Fax: +44 (0)20 8332 5278
Visiting the spirit collection
The Herbarium (where the spirit collection is held) is open to bona fide researchers by appointment. Please see the Loan and visitor policies for further information.