Kew's orchid resources
Kew has an immensely rich resource base for orchids.
• The oldest and one of the most diverse living collections
in the world.
• The largest and most comprehensive orchid herbarium, numbering about 400,000 preserved specimens.
• The orchid herbarium includes the John Lindley Herbarium, which contains about 7,000 specimens. Lindley is considered the “Father of Orchid Science” and his herbarium represents the foundation of all orchid systematics.
(from the Lindley Herbarium)
• The largest spirit collection of orchid flowers,
numbering over 32,000 specimens.
• Extensive collections of anatomy, cytology and DNA samples of orchids. The Kew DNA Bank already contains 4225 orchid accessions, which represent about 2500 species, and population-level DNA samples of more than 20 species.
• A broad-based team of orchid researchers covering a suite of disciplines that allow multi-disciplinary approaches to classification, phylogeny, higher level systematics, conservation and horticulture.
• A world-wide network of collaborators, with Kew acting as a centre for orchid research.
Herbarium staff: Jeffrey Wood, David Roberts and Clare Drinkell
The Orchid Herbarium now contains about 400,000 dried specimens, including 40,000 types. Bona fide researchers may examine the herbarium collections in person by prior arrangement (see the Herbarium Visitor Policy).
The remit of orchid research at Kew is world-wide but monographic and floristic work has focused on Old World orchids, particularly those of Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Africa and Madagascar to complement work being undertaken elsewhere. Since the 1960s regular field work in the tropics with collaborating scientists has significantly improved both the preserved and living orchid collections.
The Orchid Library and Archives, including 2,000 volumes, 50 journals, and 25,000 separates, are the most comprehensive of their kind. Over 60,000 items comprise the illustration and photographic collections, many unpublished. These include the original drawings of orchids by Roxburgh, Royle, Fitch, Snelling, Grierson, Parish, John Day, Sanderson, Janet Ross and many others.
Living collection staff: Kathy King, Philip Griffiths, Lara Jewitt, Paloma Malaxechevarra, Monica McMichen, Grace Prendergast, Margaret Ramsay
Exotic orchids have been grown at Kew continuously since about 1770. The collection is thus the oldest in existence anywhere. In the first edition of William Aiton’s Hortus Kewensis which is the first listing of plants grown at Kew, 13 tropical orchids are listed. These include the cockleshell orchid (Prosthechea cochleata) from the West Indies and the showy lady’s slipper (Cypripedium reginae) from North America.
The Living Collection of orchids now numbers about 10,000 accessions of known provenance representing 1,500 species, many of which are rare and endangered. It serves as a hub of activity for research, conservation, and education as well as an attraction for visitors.
|A selection of spirit collection specimens|
Spirit collection staff: Melissa Bavington (email@example.com)
Over 32,000 orchid specimens are held in the spirit collection. Spirit specimens can be used to observe the 3D arrangement of orchid flowers and are of high value to botanical artists. You can search the collection yourself using the Herbarium Catalogue. For further information, see the spirit collection web page.