Kew magazine blog
Kew magazine is the magazine of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Its purpose is to support and communicate the broad range of Kew’s work as it studies and saves plants, fungi and their habitats around the world. We follow intrepid botanists on expeditions around the world, unearth how Kew’s gardeners put on fantastic horticultural displays every year, and look at how staff are involved in practical conservation projects in both the UK and abroad, and much, much more.
Here you will get the latest updates from Christina Harrison, Editor of Kew magazine. Find out how the magazine is put together and what the latest feature stories are right here.
Living not far from Kew Gardens and Richmond Park, I have to admit to being lucky, as I can easily escape from the busy streets of west London. One of the things I enjoy most when walking in these areas is coming across plants and fungi that I’ve never seen before. Last week I spotted a large zoned rosette fungus (Podoscypha multizonata) in the Park and have since learned there’s an even bigger one in Kew under an ash tree. I am determined to hunt it out. See Tim Entwisle's blog Talking Plants - there's a great picture of it there!
If, like me, you love to spot fungi why not take a look at our feature in the latest Kew magazine about the amazing range you can discover in Kew’s grounds. There is a vast array of colours, shapes and sizes and they are all intriguing. You can also read our fascinating interview with Kew's mycology expert Dr Brian Spooner, about how he became interested in this field.
Earthstar fungus at Kew
One Kew specimen, Rigidoporus ulmarius, now sadly thought lost, earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records in 1995 for being the largest fungal fruiting body on Earth (at 4.8 metres in circumference)! But fear not – around 2,750 other species have been spotted here, so you’ll definitely see some if you come along on your own fungal foray. You’re especially likely to spot fresh mushrooms a couple of days after a good rain shower, and by looking in mulched flowerbeds and in Kew’s Natural Areas at the southern end of the Gardens.
Rigidoporus ulmarius was once the largest fruiting body on Earth!
The amazing fungarium
Kew’s work with fungi dates back many years and there is a ‘fungarium’ collection that houses 1.25 million specimens here. Britain has around 13,000 species of fungi (compared to 2,100 species of native flowering plants and ferns) but the overall total number is unknown. It is thought that 90 per cent are still yet to be discovered. A mind-boggling thought.
Kew also works with Natural England and with other organisations including the University of Aberystwyth on research projects. One aims to discover how many waxcap species exist in Britain, in order to determine how best to conserve them.
- You can find out much more by following the links on the Kew magazine page.
- Please do not pick fungi from the wild – leave them to disperse their spores naturally and be appreciated by others.
- Christina -
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One of the main attractions of Kew, for me, has always been the trees. For some people they are just the backdrop to the large impressive glasshouses, but to me they are an integral part of what Kew is about. The wealth of species, sizes, shapes and colours is extraordinary. There are the heritage trees – some dating back to the mid 18th century and the beginnings of Kew as a botanic garden, through to the young new specimens grown from seed collected in the wild by Kew staff. They represent both Kew’s history and its current scientific direction. There some fabulous flowering specimens to enjoy – the Catalpa trees at Kew have been beautiful this summer, as have the Paulownia (foxglove trees), and Styrax (snowbell trees) which have the most wonderful scent as well.
Flowers of Catalpa bignonioides
See stunning autumn colour
Autumn is of course the main performance season for many of the trees in the Arboretum and it’s well worth planning a trip to the Gardens in a month or so to see the brilliant shades of copper, scarlet and gold that spread out over Kew’s 320 acres. If you can catch the turning of the American ash (Fraxinus americana), liquidambars (Liquidambar styraciflua) and shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) to name but a few then you’re in for a real treat. There are also plenty of beautifully berried species to spot.
We've just put the finishing touches to the autumn edition of Kew magazine (out 7 September) and we have some true autumn finery for you. As well as features on fungi, conservation in Madagascar and the latest exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, we have a few features on Kew's trees.
Champion trees at Kew Gardens
Last year we asked renowned tree photographer Edward Parker to photograph some of Kew’s more impressive ‘champion’ trees in full autumn colour for us and he really managed to capture their character. ‘Champion’ trees are designated by The Tree Register, and are the largest, tallest or broadest of their kind in the UK. You can find a list of the best in the country in the new book Champion Trees of Britain and Ireland by Owen Johnson. Kew has an enormous number of champion trees so we asked head of Kew’s Arboretum, Tony Kirkham, to take you on a tour of some of his favourites for our magazine feature. Included in his list is the famous Ginkgo biloba, planted in 1762 – one of Kew’s Old Lions. This species is endangered in the wild in its native China, but was first introduced to Europe in the 1730s. Its common name is the maidenhair tree and it is the only surviving member of an ancient group of plants that were widespread at the time of the dinosaurs (180-200 million years ago).
This specimen was planted next to a hothouse built for Princess Augusta when she lived at the White House (next to the Orangery). It may have been one of the first planted in Britain. Both the White House and the hothouse are now long gone but the ginkgo is still thriving. This tree was honoured by the Tree Council in 2002 when it was named one of 50 Great British Trees for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
Champion tree - Ginkgo biloba at Kew Gardens
So, why not come along as the colours change this autumn, see some of our characterful trees and make sure you look out for our feature in Kew magazine.
- Subscribe to Kew magazine.
- Discover Kew's Big Trees
- Did you know that you can sponsor a heritage tree at Kew? Go to our Support Kew pages for more details.
- Find out more about the International Year of Forests.
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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?
- Get your special souvenir copy of the summer issue – here’s how.
- Find out more about the plants featured in Kew's Chelsea Garden
- Behind the scenes - installing the Chelsea Garden at Kew
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We’ve been really blessed with the weather in the past few weeks and let’s hope that May has started as she means to go on.
There is so much to do in the garden at the moment – I spent the weekend elbow-deep in compost, potting on seedlings and planting out veg. It does really give you a sense that summer and all its abundance is almost upon us, and there is nothing better to raise the spirits. I do spare a thought for Kew’s gardeners though as their task list is never ending!
Speaking of which, we’re just putting the finishing touches to a piece for the Kew magazine summer issue (out in the first week of June), that goes behind the scenes in Kew’s Tropical Nursery to speak to horticulturist Carlos Magdalena about his work with tropical waterlilies. Not only does Carlos care for a wide range of show-stopping waterlilies, but his work cross-breeding species and cultivars is helping to figure out their family tree and how closely related many of them are.
See the 'thermal waterlily’ (Nymphaea thermarum) at Kew this summer.
One of Carlos’s greatest success stories in recent years is the ‘thermal waterlily’ (Nymphaea thermarum) - a species that is thought to be the smallest waterlily in the world, with leaf pads as little as 1 cm in diameter. It once grew in the shallow waters of thermal springs in Rwanda and had been saved from extinction by the work of several individuals and Bonn Botanic Gardens. Carlos’ contribution was to figure out how, once germinated, seedlings could be raised to maturity and importantly – to flower, to ensure the future survival of the species. It is now one of the gems of Kew’s Nymphaea collection and the horticultural knowledge can be used for reintroduction programmes. To read the full story of the discovery, propagation and conservation of this species click here.
Kew is working in partnership with The Times to create a garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011.
In the upcoming summer issue of Kew magazine we’ll also be reporting on other success stories, including the beautiful hardy orchids at Wakehurst Place, Kew's Australia Landscape at the British Museum, the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition and of course, Kew’s involvement in The Times Eureka garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show (see artist's impression above). We’ll be there on the spot as the garden is built and we'll be listening closely to find out what medal hopes it has - so watch this space! Kew staff have been keenly involved in the choice of plants for the Chelsea Flower Show design, with the aim of showing how useful plants are to science and society. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out and you’ll be able to read all about it in Kew magazine – out on 9 June.
- Christina -
- If you’re a Member of Kew you’ll be able to join a behind the scenes tour of the Tropical Nursery on 11 September. See the What’s On pages of the summer edition of Kew magazine for details or see the Kew Members’ pages online.
- Get your copy of Kew magazine – you can buy single copies for just £3.95 in Kew’s shops (RRP £4.95) or you can subscribe to a print or digital edition. If you become a member of Kew you receive Kew magazine absolutely free!
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As always the magazine is packed with features (you can see two right here), but did you know at the beginning of each issue we have a quick round up of some of the most interesting published plant science stories from around the world?
This issue's round up looks at:
- a parasitic plant (Cytinus visseri) being pollinated by a wiggly-nosed elephant shrew, which is driven wild by its distinctive odour
- research into the reasons why plants accumulate heavy metals in their tissues
- how some cacti manage to shrink back into the soil to retreat from the heat;
- how the discovery of fossilised spores in the ancient mud of an estuary in north-west Argentina has increased the age of the earliest known land plants by some ten million years!
All of these stories are absolutely fascinating and show how cutting-edge plant science continues to be.
Identification of Dalbergia nigra was done by anatomical features only - until now
From Kew we follow the story of scientists in the Jodrell Laboratory whose work on Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) has discovered a way of identifying this protected species using a distinctive phenolic compound. This means that illegal imports of this rosewood can be detected much more easily now - helping Customs officers to crack down on its trade with greater efficiency. Just another way in which Kew is helping protect plants around the world!
- Get your copy of Kew magazine now - you can buy a copy in the Kew shops or online.
- Kew magazine is available for the special discount price of £3.95 in the Kew shops.
- Christina -
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Christina accepts a Kew Publishing award at the Garden Media Guild awards in 2012.
Christina joined Kew in 1999 after finishing a BSc. degree in Plant Ecology and an Advanced National Certificate in Horticulture. After initially working as a horticulturist in Kew’s Arboretum and the Hardy Display section (on the Grass Garden) she went on to become Festivals Interpretation Officer between 2002-2008, helping Kew’s onsite visitors understand what makes Kew tick. In the meantime she completed an MA in Garden History, a subject that continues to be one of her passions.
Christina was short-listed for a Garden Writers Guild award in 2007 for one of her articles in Kew magazine, and is the author of Kew’s Big Trees, published in 2008. She became editor of Kew magazine in September 2008. “I see Kew magazine as a window on the world of Kew,” she says. “I hope between its pages the many facets of Kew’s work and the people who make it happen are revealed for all to see and encourage readers to continue to support Kew.”
Your iPad as a window on Kew: Thanks very much for your comment Louise, it's great to hear feedback. If anyone has any more feedba ... by: Christina
Your iPad as a window on Kew: The new app is brilliant. I can leave my magazine at my father in law's for him to read while I have ... by: Louise
Your iPad as a window on Kew: It appears we've had some technical difficulties with the Kew magazine app. If you have already down ... by: Christina
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