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Press release: Kew Science Festival 2017

Don your lab coat and dig out your goggles for this year’s Science Festival at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 4–6 August

  • Kew’s world-leading scientists bring their latest work out of the labs and into the Gardens.

  • Discover microscopic gardens, clone cauliflowers, digitally scan trees and identify exotic plant species.

  • Activities, games, interactive experiments, talks and behind-the-scenes tours.

After a hugely successful first year in August 2016, the festival is back for three days of exciting activities, workshops and tours that will inspire children and adults alike, celebrating the incredible plant discoveries and pioneering solution-driven science undertaken by Kew.

With over 200 scientists and work spanning 110 countries, Kew is a global leader in plant and fungal science; from carrying out exciting plant discovery expeditions in Mozambique, to vital conservation work in biodiversity hotspot Madagascar, and unearthing the fundamental impact of plants on our daily lives. This year’s scientific extravaganza will not only focus on the vital importance of conserving the world’s plant biodiversity, but will bring to life, for all ages, the crucial value of plant and fungal science.

Housed within a huge marquee in front of the majestic Kew Palace, families can expect a vast array of different activity stations run by Kew scientists. From conserving the world’s seeds to identifying and saving exotic endangered plants, visitors will be able to get stuck into some of the ground-breaking science work that takes place behind the scenes at Kew.

During the festival, visitors will be able to try out a number of hands-on experiments including extracting genes from vegetables at the DNA in the Garden stand, Cauliflower Cloning and digitally scanning whole trees. Visitors will get exclusive access to Kew’s labs where they can become Molecular Explorers, getting to grips with microscopes and discovering amazing ‘microscopic gardens’ by looking at close-up views of plants and their structures. The Friendly Fungus area will bring to life the mysterious kingdom of fungi and its relationship with plants and the world around us.

Families can also learn about plant specimen preservation and create beautiful take-home mementos at the plant pressing workshop, while Kew’s own Identification Station will offer the chance to identify species by their weird and wonderful structures.

Children will also delight in meeting historical figures such as the explorer Hans Sloane who first introduced chocolate to Britain, and Charles Darwin who’ll be offering fun and fascinating scientific insights.

The festival also offers the chance to go behind the scenes of Kew’s Tropical Nursery which houses a dizzying array of exotic and rare plant species. There will also be tours of Kew’s awe-inspiring Herbarium, where around 7 million plant specimens are preserved, including samples collected by the likes of Darwin.

For those who really want to get their teeth stuck into some plant science there will be a programme of fascinating talks on exciting topics such as The Economy of Plants and on new plant discoveries being made in New Guinea.

Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science, says: ‘The Science Festival is our chance to lift the lid on some of Kew’s extraordinary science in a fun and interactive way. We also hope to inspire youngsters to consider studying and building a career in science and conservation. Above all, we want visitors young and old to have fun and enjoy a day in the Gardens trying out all the exciting activities on offer.’


Festival Highlights for all ages
10am – 5pm every day, unless specific times stated.

DNA in the Garden

Extract genes from vegetables and find out how teams from Kew use it to uncover plant secrets. The DNA extractions are carried out using ice cold vodka/alcohol. Visitors can expect an array of interactive DNA toys too.

To ‘dye’ for

Discover how plants in Brazil can be used for more than food! Visitors can get colourful trying out different plant dyes and learning about where they come from.

Plant genomes – from mini to mega

Delve into the world of plant genomes and find out about their amazing genetic diversity and why it matters.

3D Trees

Get to grips with the latest 3D scanning technology to scan and record trees in the wild.

Digitising Plants

Discover how Kew turns plant samples from across the globe into important digital records.

Friendly fungus

Make your own fungal-powered plant and uncover the mysterious kingdom of fungi and its relationship with plants and the world around us, with the help of Kew’s incredible team of mycologists.

Cauliflower cloning

Learn how plant cloning is saving plant species from extinction and even try it for yourself with a cauliflower! 

Seed Challenge

Take the seed collecting challenge and discover more about unusual and familiar crops from all over the world.

Preserving and mounting a library of plant specimens

Find out how Kew prepares and protects more than 7 million plant samples and even create beautiful take-home mementos at the plant pressing workshop.

Pressing matters

Press a plant and learn how botanists at Kew collect plants all over the world for the herbarium and use them for science.

Top Banana

See how a quirky banana plant relative in Africa could help feed populations across the continent.

Hands on Pollination - 2pm

Watch how Kew horticulturalists hand-pollinate flowers to collect seed for future generations. Visitors can have a go themselves using tools including sewing pins and tuning forks!

20 places available

Meet Hans Sloane – 11.30am, 1pm, 3pm,

The intrepid explorer himself will be telling stories of plant discovery from his travels and sharing how he introduced this country to chocolate.

20 places available for each timeslot

Molecular Explorers – 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm

Get exclusive access to the labs where the plant science magic happens at Kew.

15 places available for each timeslot


Activity Highlights for budding scientists - under 7 years

Identification Station

Kew’s own ‘identification station’ will offer the chance to identify species by their weird and wonderful structures.

Krawley Kreeper – 10.30am, 11.30am, 2pm

An interactive storytelling activity for little ones about ants, spiders, bees and bugs.

15 places available for each time slot

Botany adventures on the Broad Walk - 11.00am, 12noon, 2.30pm

Youngsters can embark on an exciting botanical journey along Kew’s incredible Great Broad Walk Borders, helping to find wonderful and colourful plants on the way.

15 places available for each time slot



Saving the world’s rarest plants

Go behind the scenes of the Tropical Nursery at Kew where thousands of rare and exotic plants are cultivated and nurtured by Kew’s incredible horticulturalists.

A library of plants

Take a trip to Kew’s awe-inspiring Herbarium where 7 million plant specimens are preserved, including samples collected by the likes of Darwin.



Plants in peril!

Plants around the world are in danger of extinction! Discover how Kew investigates the world’s threatened plant species in this talk by Serene Hargreaves.

The Economy of Plants

Think plants are just for eating? Uncover more about how plants are used in the Amazon for so much more with the curator of Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, Mark Nesbitt.

The Last Unknown

Where can you go to make new botanical discoveries? Explore the bountiful botanical discoveries being made in New Guinea in a fascinating talk by Dr Tim Utteridge.


Wakehurst, Kew’s botanic garden in Sussex, will also be hosting its very own Science Festival on 22-23 July. Visitors to the country estate will enjoy getting stuck into some wild science out in the gardens and will also get the chance to meet the scientists behind the world’s largest wild species seed bank, the Millennium Seed Bank.


Note to Editors

Entrance to the festival is included free of charge in the standard admission to Kew Gardens. All ages are welcome.

For images and more information please contact the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Press Office on 020 8332 5607 or email

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst, attract over 1.5 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately just under half of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.

Wakehurst is one of the most beautiful and significant botanic gardens in the country. It is home to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, which houses and protects seed from the world’s most substantial and diverse collection of threatened and useful wild plants, and leads the MSB Partnership, a crucially important global science based conservation programme which is the largest of its kind in the world. Since 1965, RBG Kew has transformed the private garden and estate at Wakehurst into a contemporary botanic garden, where ornamental plantings and exotic tree and shrub collections of international importance sit within native woodland. Wakehurst’s natural assets associated with its countryside location renders it complementary to Kew’s West London site, with different growing conditions, and a real emphasis on wild plant collections. Coupled with the Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst offers an inspiring, immersive, and educational day out for the whole family, and serves as a vital contribution to UK and global plant conservation.