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DNA Banking of the UK Flora and Mycota: a Resource for Conservation Genetics and Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology

Creating a molecular reference library for the UK flora and mycota.
Vials of extracted plant DNA are stored in -80°C freezers

Since the mid 1990s, we have been collecting plant samples from the UK for DNA extraction, and the concept of a DNA Bank for the UK flora was formalised in the late 1990s. There have been two primary foci: 1) taxa of conservation interest (see separate document on Conservation genetics of UK plants project) and 2) generic-level sampling of the UK flora, and we are now moving towards species-level sampling in groups of interest as the generic level approaches completion. The generic level sampling was greatly facilitated by the grant awarded to RBG Kew and Imperial College (Silwood Park) by NERC.

For taxa of conservation interest, we sample according to the questions being asked and availability of material, whereas for the generic and species level sampling, one or a small number of samples per taxon is generally sufficient. As of 2011, the bank currently holds >40% of the species in the UK flora, many with multiple samples per species.

As the UK Flora DNA Bank increases in size, it has become more useful for a range of projects. These include studies of phylogenetic relationships in e.g. Dactylorhiza and origin of endemic polyploids in Limonium and Sorbus, investigations of niche structure in grassland communities, hybridisation and introgression in Orchis and Pseudorchis and species and subspecies delimitation in Neotinea, and Carex, among others.

We are now also banking DNA from UK fungi, with the goal being to make this a standard procedure when processing new material into the fungarium. In addition, we are banking DNAs generated from other projects that utilise specimens deposited in the extensive British National Collection of fungi held in the fungarium. Together, the fungal DNA bank will eventually serve as a molecular reference library for the UK mycota.

Project partners and collaborators


English Nature 
Natural History Museum, London
National Museum of Wales 
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Project funders

UKEnglish Nature
National Museum of Wales
Several charitable Foundations

Project Department

Project Leader: