Mycology

Sending specimens to Kew

Exchanges, personal herbaria, and interesting new collections

We are actively interested in maintaining and improving our British and world collections of fungi, so new material is almost always welcome. Just take a look at the following guidelines and let us know what you may have that may be of interest. The guidelines are divided into three: a) exchanging mycological material with other herbaria and institutions; b) donating personal or local mycological herbaria to Kew; and c) sending interesting new fungal specimens to Kew.

A)   Exchanges with other herbaria and institutions

The mycology section at RBG Kew always has a number of duplicate specimens, mainly from the UK, which we are happy to exchange (typically in batches of 50) with other herbaria around the world. Please contact us by e-mail if you are interested in setting up such an exchange programme, either on a one-off or longer term basis.

B) Donating personal or local herbaria to Kew

Kew is happy to provide a home for unwanted mycological collections built up by individuals, by local societies, or by local museums. Please contact us by e-mail if you have such a collection to dispose of. We can advise on whether it is worth retaining and can probably help with the necessary transfer arrangements.

C)  Sending interesting new specimens to Kew

The following are our standard guidelines for collecting and sending in individual specimens of interesting fungi. When collecting in Britain, please note that you should have the landowner's permission to collect and remove fungal fruitbodies for research purposes. If planning to collect overseas, please contact us by e-mail, since a number of important restrictions apply.

1. Send only material in prime condition. Specimens must be properly dried as soon as possible after collection (within 24 hours maximum). Ideally, drying should be at around 40C with plenty of air circulation. If a drier is not available, try a sieve over a radiator or an airing cupboard. Do not cook fungi in an oven!

2. How to send specimens.  Specimens can be sent together in a parcel, but should be placed in individual packets within the parcel, not mixed together. Fragile specimens (eg agarics) may need to be placed in stiff cardboard boxes, tins, or similar containers, to avoid crushing. Packets or containers must be clearly marked.

3. What not to send. a) Fresh material likely to rot in transit, or on receipt. Since we cannot drop all our other work immediately on receipt of  'fresh' specimens, such material is put straight in the drier (so might as well be dried anyway, before despatch). It is worth noting that the  majority of 'fresh' specimens sent to Kew are full of unseen bacteria or otherwise rotten and have to be discarded on receipt; b) Old or damaged specimens or inadequate collections (eg a single little agaric fruitbody).

4. What we'd like to receive.  Ideally, we'd like to receive substantial collections of nice, clean, well-dried, annotated specimens with a range of fruitbodies from young to mature. Even quite common species are welcome on this basis, since they are an asset to the national herbaria. Photographs or colour paintings are a bonus.

5. Annotations. Each specimen must be accompanied by detailed descriptive and informational notes, including:

i. Name of collector
ii. Date of collection
iii. Precise locality, including county (or overseas equivalent) and grid reference if known
iv. Notes on habitat, host, and substratum  (eg. 'in dead Sphagnum moss in moorland spruce plantation')
v. Descriptive notes based on fresh material (eg. size, shape, consistency, surface appearance, colours & colour changes (on bruising, cutting), taste, smell); any microscopic notes will also be welcome, as will drawings, paintings, or photographs (which will be filed and retained with the specimen)

Please remember

Whilst the mycologists here at Kew wish to be helpful and cooperative at all times, the Royal Botanic Gardens cannot provide an unlimited free identification service and does not exist for that purpose. Priority will be given to medical and other enquiries of immediate or practical importance, scientific research projects and survey work, and well-annotated enquiries from professional and amateur mycologists, particularly those sending material of interest and value to the British national and overseas herbaria. Commercial and other enquiries are subject to a nominal charge (currently £80 + VAT per specimen).

Good, well-annotated collections of fungi are always welcome at Kew and will be added to our substantial herbarium collections, which are probably the largest and certainly the most comprehensive in the world. Each new collection is now databased and given an individual collection number, which may be quoted in correspondence, scientific and research papers.

Please remember to enclose a stamped addressed envelope if you require a reply.

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Email mycology@kew.org