Support for living collections
Over 2000 species within Kews collections are classed with an IUCN
Category of Threat. The laboratory supports the care of these valuable
and varied specimens by propagating and maintaining collections and rescuing
plants that succumb to infection or damage.
Nepenthes in vitro and as a mature plant
Over 80 carnivorous plant species, 40% of which have a conservation rating, have been grown from seed using in vitro techniques at Kew. Habitat destruction and over collection constitutes a serious threat to many species. The use of these techniques has overcome problems caused by low seed viability and their susceptibility to fungal disease, and has proved effective for increasing stocks of some species in cultivation.
Genera that can grown be in vitro include Sarracenia, Nepenthes, Drosera, Pinguicula, Heliamphora, Dionaea and Cephalotus.
Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) on Round Island, Mauritius
Woody Plants and Palms
Initiation of woody plant species into tissue culture can be difficult
as many are slow growing and require very specific conditions to allow
development. Specialised techniques with the potential to produce large
numbers of plants to be grown from very limited starting material are
being developed for the critically endangered Café Maron, (Ramosmania
The successful transfer of micropropagated plants to glasshouse conditions is difficult in many tree species. Critically endangered endemics such as Sophora toromiro from Easter Island have required the development of novel methods to achieve success.
The Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) from Round Island, Mauritius is critically endangered and is included in the Threatened Plant Appeal. Propagation through in vitro methods will assist in the long-term conservation of this palm and its close relative H. amaricaulis, of which only one plant remains.
This is the storage of living material at or near the temperature of liquid nitrogen (- 196 °C). At this temperature cellular processes are effectively stopped and the cells or organs are stored in a state of suspended growth, free from pathogens or the risk of genetic drift. It is therefore a valuable tool for plant genetic conservation and allows a tissue bank of vegetative material to be stored over long periods of time. This technique has proved successful for a variety of species including: Wahlenbergia insulae-howei, Hymenophyllum tunbrigense, Ditrichum cornubicum and Cypripedium calceolus. Other species are being evaluated and techniques developed to extend the range of species that may be stored in this secure and cost effective way.
Education and sharing of information
Published information, in the form of scientific papers or popular press
articles, are released at every opportunity to help pass on knowledge
acquired at Kew. The Micropropagation Unit also edits and produces the
Botanic Gardens Micropropagation News (BGMN), a newsletter that brings
together scientific research papers from around the world. This is received
by institutes and individuals in more than 70 countries.
For further information on the work of the Unit, specific enquiries about particular plants or techniques, or submission instructions for BGMN, please contact:
Micropropagation Unit, Aiton House
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew