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A bumper year for Kew in new species discovery

Canopy giants and miniature fungi are among over 250 new species discovered in Kew’s 250th anniversary year

Species included giant rainforest trees, rare and beautiful orchids, spectacular palms, tiny fungi, wild coffees and an ancient aquatic plant.
(clockwise from top left) Berlinia korupensis, Lecomtedoxa plumosa, Carapichea lucida, Talbotiella velutina, Eucalyptus brandiana, Cyrtostachys bakeri

Giant rainforest trees, rare and beautiful orchids, spectacular palms, tiny fungi, wild coffees and an ancient aquatic plant are among over 250 new plant and fungi species discovered and described by Kew botanists in our 250th anniversary year. The new species come from a wide range of fascinating locations, and nearly a third are believed to be in danger of extinction. You can explore our new discoveries country-by-country on our interactive map.

Following in the footsteps of their famous predecessors such as Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Joseph Hooker and Charles Darwin, Kew's taxonomic botanists continue to explore and study the world’s plant and fungal diversity, making on average 200 new discoveries every year. This work has never been more relevant than in the current era of global climate change and biodiversity loss – especially as we count down to the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010.

This tiny aquatic plant, Isoetes eludens, was found in a remote temporary rockpool in South Africa by Kew's Director, Professor Stephen Hopper

The list of new species covers a fascinating range of plants and fungi, from tiny wood-rotting fungi less than a millimetre thick to massive trees reaching over 42 metres into Cameroon's rainforest canopy - Berlinia korupensis has seed pods measuring a massive 30 cm in length! Also featured are 24 new palms, 13 species of orchid and seven new species of wild coffee. The new species were found in a wide range of locations across the world - the largest haul (62 new species) came from Borneo, whilst one was discovered in a glasshouse here at Kew! 

Kew's Director, Professor Stephen Hopper, says “It is not widely known that 2,000 new plant species are discovered worldwide each year. Kew’s botanists make a very significant contribution to this total. These new discoveries highlight the fact that there is so much of the plant world yet to be discovered and documented. Without knowing what’s out there and where it occurs, we have no scientific basis for effective conservation. It is vital that these areas of botanical science are adequately funded and supported. As part of our Breathing Planet Programme we are committed to accelerating the discovery and classification of plant diversity, and finding solutions for their conservation."

Professor David Mabberley, Keeper of the Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives adds, “Achievements like this year’s bumper crop of new species discoveries are only possible because of Kew’s international collaborative network. We are currently working with 100 countries throughout the world.”

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18 January 2010
Dear Sirs, I am very happy to note that Kew has discovered a good number of new plants and I like more the discovery of the aquatic species of Isoetes. Kudos for your work. Wish many more new discoveries in 2010. Happy New Year to all of you and Happy Discoveries too all through. Suresh N. Pathiki Principal (Retired)/Lecturer in Botany Varalakshmi Dharani Lecturer in Botany/Biotech (Retired) Anoohya Pathiki Final B. Tech., Comp. Sci., Engg.