Plants & Fungi A - Z
Explore our profiles of plants and fungi.
These illustrated profiles contain a wealth of facts, including details on conservation, uses and habitats – as well as Kew’s connections with the species. They have been chosen to inspire interest in plants, detail our science and conservation work and showcase star plants in the Gardens.
This is a constantly growing resource with new profiles added every week - so do be sure to check back regularly.
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Okra is valued for its edible green fruits, said to be shaped like ‘lady’s fingers’, one of its common names in British English.
The fast-growing sweet thorn, with its striking yellow pompom-like flowerheads, is perhaps the most well-used acacia in southern Africa.
The wood of Acacia nilotica was used by ancient Egyptians to make statues and furniture.
Gum arabic has been used for at least 4,000 years in the preparation of food, in human and veterinary medicine, in crafts and as a cosmetic.
Although native to China, it was commercialisation of this climber in New Zealand (and clever marketing under the name kiwi fruit) that made it the popular and widespread fruit it is today.
Baobab, Africa’s iconic ‘upside-down’ tree, is pollinated by bats and bushbabies.
A relative of the common horse chestnut, the Indian horse chestnut from the Himalaya is a spectacular early summer flowering tree, which produces smaller seeds than the common horse chestnut, making it less useful for the 'conker' player.
The horse mushroom is a good, sought-after edible fungus, related to the common cultivated mushroom (A. bisporus) and with a pleasant aniseed-like odour.
Flat-crown albizia is an African tree with a wealth of uses, from the simple provision of shade to the preparation of a love charm.
An attractive wetland plant, common water-plantain has delicate white, pale pink or lilac flowers that open in late afternoon and close again at dusk.
Garlic is a strongly aromatic bulb that has long been used in cooking and medicine.
Elephant ear taro is a massive aroid with a spectacular cluster of upwardly pointing, arrow-shaped leaf blades which can reach one metre in length.
The strange-looking quiver tree is an icon of southern Africa’s most arid habitats.
Aloe ferox is a South African aloe valued for its colourless leaf ‘gel’ and bitter brown exudate.
Tall mountain aloes growing on hillsides are a common sight in southern Africa.
Fan aloe is an unusual, many-branched succulent with striking scarlet flowers and fan-like clusters of leaves.
Aloe vera has been described as a wonder-plant. The colourless jelly-like leaf parenchyma tissue is used in an extraordinary array of everyday products, from dishwashing liquid to yoghurt.
Aloe welmelensis is a rare and threatened succulent plant species found only in one river valley in southern Ethiopia.
One of the most iconic and distinctive of British fungi, fly agaric, with its red cap and white spots, is renowned for its toxicity and hallucinogenic properties.
A striking aroid from tropical Asia, elephant yam is extensively cultivated for its edible tubers.
Pineapple is a tropical plant widely cultivated for its distinctive fruits with their sweet yellow flesh and juice.
Well-known as a decoration for cakes and puddings, angelica is a tall, aromatic herb that has been cultivated since ancient times.
Thale cress hit the headlines in 2000, when this small garden weed became the first plant to have its genome sequenced.
Arisaema consanguineum is a striking plant with rather sinister-looking flowers and bold foliage.
The subtly attractive Jacquemont’s cobra lily is native to the Himalaya, southern India, and the Khasi Hills region in north-east India, and can be cultivated in shady areas of temperate gardens.
Pelican flower produces enormous trumpet-shaped flowers, which smell of rotting meat and attract flies and wasps as its pollinators.
A sweetly aromatic herb with small, yellow flower heads, sweet wormwood contains the chemical artemisinin and its aerial parts are used in making anti-malarial drugs.
Breadfruit is a tall tropical tree with divided leaves and large green to yellow fruits with an edible, starchy, white or cream-coloured flesh.
Garden asparagus is a widely grown seasonal vegetable that has been cultivated for thousands of years, and this and a few other species of the genus are still harvested from the wild in parts of the Mediterranean.
Beetroot, Swiss chard, sugar beet and mangel-wurzel are all cultivars of the same species, Beta vulgaris.
The silver birch is a temperate tree, grown as an ornamental plant, also for its timber. It is used for a range of purposes, from broom-making and steeple-chase fencing to medicines.
Fingerroot is a medicinal and culinary herb, with bright yellow, finger-shaped rhizomes.
Frankincense, an oily gum resin from the tree Boswellia sacra and related species, is named in the Bible as one the three gifts given to the baby Jesus by the 'Three Wise Men'. It has been used for thousands of years in many different cultures.
A shrub or tree, with mulberry-like leaves, paper mulberry is important as a source of fibre for cloth and paper.
St George's mushroom is one of the few good edible fungi to be found in spring, usually appearing in late April close to St George’s Day (23rd April), hence the popular name.
In the dense, green, tropical forest undergrowth in Africa, the profusion of petals of the bright white flowers of Caloncoba welwitschii provide quite a spectacle.
Calvatia gigantea produces perhaps the largest fruitbody of any fungus, and is aptly referred to as the giant puffball. The unmistakeable fruitbodies, which appear in late summer and autumn, are often the size of footballs and sometimes much larger.
Tea is the most important non-alcoholic beverage in the world, and over three million tonnes are grown annually.
Sweet chestnut is a medium-sized tree that is widely cultivated for its edible nuts contained in prickly husks.
The Madagascar periwinkle is a popular ornamental plant found in gardens and homes across the world, and is also used in the treatment of cancer.
A low-growing perennial with beautiful, large, blue flowerheads, perennial cornflower is native to central and southern Europe.
Wintersweet is grown chiefly for the wonderful scent produced by its small flowers in late winter and early spring.
The dried roots of Chlorophytum tuberosum are used as a popular tonic and aphrodisiac in Ayurvedic medicine.
Widely cultivated for its nutritious seeds, chickpea is thought to have originated in Turkey, Syria and Iran.
Watermelon has long been valued for its refreshing fruits, which have also been used as an ingredient in cosmetics.
The pagoda flower, so called because of its tall, pyramidal inflorescences, is one of the most spectacular Clerodendrum species.
Codonopsis tangshen is an unusual climber, bearing subtle, yellowish-green, bell-shaped flowers, with purple markings on the inside; the root is used in China to make a tonic.
Coffee is one of the world’s favourite drinks, one of the most important commercial crop-plants, and the second most valuable international commodity; Arabica coffee is considered to produce the finest coffee beans.
Guadeloupe blackbead has beautiful clusters of creamy-white flowers and stunning red pods shaped like a string of beads and containing black seeds.