Simon Toomer appointed Curator of Living Collections

Release date: 11 January 2022

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announces the appointment of Simon Toomer to the role of Curator of Living Collections. A new post for the organisation, this role provides a pivotal leadership role in both the delivery of Kew’s Living Collections Strategy and the leadership of the horticultural teams at Kew Gardens.

Simon brings a wealth of experience to this new role, most recently in his position as Senior Consultant for Plant Conservation for the National Trust, where he was responsible for the curation of plant collections, advising on the propagation of heritage plants, and providing guidance on plant health and the wider environmental implications of gardening. He has also previously held the position as Director of Westonbirt Arboretum, and as Chair of PlantNetwork, the primary support and advisory network for holders of living plant collections throughout Britain and Ireland. He is also the author of several books on topics about trees and plant collections, including Trees for the Small Garden (2005) and Planting and Maintaining a Tree Collection (2010).

As the foundation of RBG Kew’s two botanic gardens, Kew and Wakehurst, the Living Collections are the most diverse collections of any botanic garden in the world, made up of over 68,000 accessions (one or more living plant specimens that come from the same initial source) of over 27,000 taxa. Some of these plants are extinct in the wild, and others represent threatened floras from different habitats around the world.

RBG Kew’s scientists and horticulturists work with partners around the world to use the Living Collections for cutting-edge research and conservation to combat pressing issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss. The Living Collections strategy, published in 2019, provides a framework for RBG Kew to manage and develop the Living Collections, integrating them with Kew’s broader mission and scientific priorities, as well as fostering an appreciation of the pivotal role of plants for visitors to both sites.

Simon Toomer, incoming Curator of Living Collections at RBG Kew says: “I’m delighted to be joining Kew in this newly created role. Kew’s Living Collections are essential in helping us to combat the vital tandem issues of climate change and biodiversity loss. I look forward to working with Kew’s team of horticulturists across Kew Gardens’ UNESCO World Heritage site, curating the diverse plant and fungi collection and helping to preserve some of the world’s rarest and most endangered plants for generations to come.”

Richard Barley, Director of Gardens at RBG Kew adds: “Simon’s wealth of experience and expertise will be an invaluable addition to RBG Kew. He will play a key role in achieving the ambitions of our Living Collections strategy, and supporting Kew’s horticultural teams in curating our diverse collections, and ensuring the conservation of some of the world’s most threatened flora. We are very pleased to warmly welcome Simon to Kew.”


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Notes to Editors

About Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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 Gardens’ 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden, attract over 2.5 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support RBG Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.