News in Brief

New in Brief


Enhanced features of the SEPASAL (Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands) database, recently developed in Microsoft ACCESS, include: distribution maps and illustrations, attaching information sources to data, adoption of TDWG standards for geographical and use data, and expanded descriptor and free text fields. The SEPASAL team is now expanding the information content on the 6,000 species in the database and increasing the number of species covered. SEPASAL is funded by the Clothworkers' Foundation.

Contact: Frances Cook (0181-332 5704)

Email: Frances Cook

Seagrass Award

The Leverhulme Trust has awarded £43,733 for a two-year project aimed at developing conservation strategies for seagrasses (Zostera spp.). This will be directed by Dr Robin Probert in collaboration with the Division of Fisheries, CSIRO, Australia.

Contact: Dr Robin Probert (0181-332 5085)

Email: Dr. Robin Probert


Two research collaborations under INTAS on 'Use of Physical Gene Mapping to Study Genome Organisation in Nicotiana' and 'Molecular and Chromosomal Evolution in the Solanaceae' will link Kew with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (Kiev), the Natural History Museum (London) and the University of Tübingen (Germany).

Contact: Prof. Mike Bennett (0181-332 5311)

Email: Prof. Mike Bennett

Cryopreservation of Cosmos The Mexican hot chocolate flower, Cosmos atrosanguineus, is well known in cultivation but is thought to be extinct in the wild. Stocks grown in the UK come from a very narrow genetic base, possibly from one original plant. Because of this lack of genetic diversity and the finding that the species is self-incompatible, Tim Wilkinson has been developing cryopreservation as a method for storing the known clone safely, pending the location of others.

Tim Wilkinson transferring frozen meristems of Cosmos atrosanguineus into liquid nitrogen.

Tim has now succeeded in regenerating plants from tissue stored in liquid nitrogen. Before storage, meristems were encapsulated in alginate and treated with a high concentration of sucrose to protect them from freezing damage. A controlled liquid nitrogen freezer (funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust) was then used to gradually lower the temperature of the alginate-coated meristems before they were plunged into liquid nitrogen for long-term storage. After such treatment, shoots could be regenerated from the meristems by rapid thawing and culture on recovery medium. It is hoped that the technique will be successful for other plants that cannot be stored as seed.

Plants successfully regenerated after cryopreservation.

Contact: Tim Wilkinson (0181-332 5559)

Email: Tim Wilkinson

New Facilities for Collections
Seed Bank Upgrade

An enlarged Seed Bank will be completed in April 1995 at Wakehurst Place following a donation of £250,000 from the Weston Family. It replaces the old Seed Bank which, after 15 years of service, had reached the end of its reliable life and was nearly full. The new facility incorporates a 36m2 dry room (10% relative humidity at 10°C), a 40m2 cold room (-20°C) and a 15m2 cold room (operating down to -40°C and giving flexibility of storage conditions). The increased capacity will take the Bank into the next century, by when dramatic expansion of seed conservation activities is proposed.

Roger Smith inspecting the new Seed Bank

Contact: Simon Linington (0181-332 5075)

Email: Simon Linington

£1.5 m for Melon Yard

Negotiations with MAFF have secured an additional £1.5 m funding, mostly to develop facilities for the Herbaceous, Alpine and Science Support collections in the Melon Yard. A long-awaited replacement for the old glasshouses will provide the diverse environmental conditions necessary to grow experimental plant material, whilst new frames and glasshouses will upgrade the facilities for bulbs and protected alpines. Work is planned to start in autumn 1995 for completion in 1996. Kew's work depends heavily on the quality of its living plant collections, so this is an important boost for the science programmes.

The melon yard development will provide conditions for growing rare plants such as the Iris endomensis, a semi-desert 'Juno' endemic to the Edom region of Jordan, which flowered for the first time at Kew last year. It has only been flowered previously in cultivation in 1946, when it was first described.

Contact: David Hardman (0181-332 5512)

Email: David Hardman

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