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Useful plants just got beautiful

Christina Harrison
5 July 2011
Blog team: 
That was one of the main messages of The Times Eureka garden at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show – useful plants should be appreciated for both their beauty and their vital utility.

The summer edition of Kew magazine has just hit the stands and we’re focusing on the fascinating – and very relevant – topic of useful plants in this issue. The Times Eureka Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this May gave us a great excuse to concentrate on this subject. Kew was involved in the theme, choice of plants and in the building of the garden, and right now it’s being re-built at Kew for everyone to enjoy over the summer. Its theme was ‘plants useful to science and society’ so, as well as taking an in-depth look at the garden, we picked out several plants from the design, including iris, lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), and peony, to tell their stories. Such plants have a long history of being used for medicine, clothing, shelter and all manner of bizarre uses, but many are being investigated today for vital drugs to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. Check out the main feature on the garden, and watch this fascinating video on Kew’s work on medicinal plants.

The summer issue of Kew Magazine

To bring this topic right back to the essence of Kew’s work we also interviewed Tiziana Ulian – who leads Kew’s Useful Plants Project. This international project based at the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst, helps communities in Africa and Mexico to raise useful plants from seed rather than gathering them from the wild. This helps both the communities and preserves wild populations of plants under threat. You can read a pdf of the article here. You can also support this work.

You can see Tiziana in the new Kew Views video on 'why plant diversity matters'. One in five plant species are threatened and four more species face extinction every day. Diversity equals resilience and the ability to adapt to change, and such diversity is becoming ever more vital. The work of Kew and its partners in initiatives such as the Useful Plants Project is proving crucial to the survival of both people and plants in a changing world. Why not join Kew’s Adopt a Seed to Save a Species campaign to help make a difference?



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