Runner beans growing in the Kitchen Garden
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Meet the experts guided tours

Hear fascinating facts about a different plant or fungus each month, including its history, horticulture and biology. Tours are every Tuesday. June tours will feature Legumes.

Event details

Tuesdays at 11.30am. Tours last a maximum of 1½ hours.
Venue: 
Kew Gardens
Price: 
Included with entry to the Gardens

Event overview

Discover a new plant or fungi each month on a guided tour with our knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. Go behind the scenes to areas of the Gardens not normally seen by the public.  Gain an insight into the different aspects of work that Kew undertakes in areas of science, horticulture and conservation.

During the guided tour you will meet the expert staff who care for the plants and fungi growing in the collections and those who undertake research and conservation work behind the scenes.
You'll come away with a much greater understanding of Kew's important work around the world and how we help with conservation.

Depending on the featured plant or fungi the tour could include a visit to the Jodrell Laboratory, the Herbarium or one our Nurseries. You'll see how Kew's research can be used to help people across the globe with re-forestation and finding alternative crops for farming in remote areas.

  • Tours will be mainly outside, but some behind the scenes areas may also be visited
  • All locations are wheelchair accessible
  • There is a limit of 15 people per tour and places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Please be at the information desk by 11.15am at the latest as the tour will start directly at 11.30am.

June 2017 - Legumes

Introduction to legumes

The Leguminosae is the third largest flowering plant family after the orchid and sunflower families. Members of the legume family include herbs and shrubs as well as large woody vines and trees; there are also a few floating aquatics. The family is widely distributed and diverse in the tropics.

The Leguminosae takes its name from its most common fruit type – a legume – a pod which splits open to release its seeds.

How to recognize a legume

Many people will be familiar with the flowers of peas and runner beans and some ornamental members of this family such as Wisteria and Laburnum. The flowers of these legumes typically have a standard (banner or flag) petal, two wing petals and two, usually partially fused, keel petals which protect the sexual parts. A sub-group includes florist’s mimosa which has flowers that can look like fluffy pom-poms.

Legumes under threat

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature publishes a list of endangered species known as the Red List. There are five species of Leguminosae listed as extinct and more than one hundred recorded as critically endangered. One species, Sophora toromiro, described as ‘extinct in the wild’ has been the focus of Kew horticulturists and conservation scientists for some time. They have been working to ensure the survival of this species in cultivation. Kew staff continue to safeguard other threatened and endangered legumes in their native habitats across the world.

Economic importance of legumes

Legumes are widely used as human and animal food, for timber, in dyes, insecticides, in medicinal products, and as garden, park and street ornamentals.

Pulses are a subset of legumes which include dried peas and beans, lentils and chickpeas which can be used as a vegetable protein alternative to meat.

Many legumes have nodules on their roots which house nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This provides an additional source of fertilizer for the plant and allows their cultivation in relatively poor soils. Nitrogen fixing legumes can also be used as ‘green manures’ and in crop rotation systems. Examples of green manures include alfafa (Medicago sativa), and clover (Trifolium repens and T. pratense).

Legumes at Kew

Kew has a total of 160 legume genera growing outside in the Gardens or in the glasshouses and nursery areas.

Examples of the family can be found across the whole of the Gardens, although the majority of the legume tree and shrub collection is found near the Pavilion restaurant at the southeast corner of the Gardens.

Legumes are a major focus for Kew Science. In addition to studying the DNA, detailed analyses of the chemistry, floral development, wood and pollen morphology enable scientists to understand and explain the evolutionary relationships in the family.

The Herbarium and the Economic Botany Collections are made up of thousands of legume specimens, artefacts, products and wood samples.


The Meet the experts guided walk is included with entry to the Gardens. 

Save on the price of your ticket when you book online


July's tour

The tour for July 2017 will feature the Mediterranean Garden.