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Kew Science blog

Explore some of the research and activities of our global science and conservation programmes. Keep up to date with current developments in Kew science and science policy.
Image showing Enset in the Agri-landscape of South West Ethiopia
17th July 2017

Enset: bananas on steroids!

Mair Bosley reveals the fascinating background behind enset, featuring in this summer's Science Festival.
Image showing Restrepia contorta, an orchid endemic to Northern Andes region and a member of Pleurothallidinae, one of the most characteristic orchid groups of the Andean mountain flora
3rd July 2017

Andean orchids – not so ancient

Thousands of orchid species in the American tropics formed more recently than expected. Kew scientist, Oscar Alejandro Pérez-Escobar explains more.
Image showing specimen bundles awaiting mounting by the Specimen Preparation Team
19th June 2017

Preserving plants for the future

Three of Kew’s specimen preparation team explain the history and process of mounting plant specimens for its herbarium.
Mellissia begoniifolia (Saint Helena boxwood), reduced to a small handful of plants in the wild (Image: T. Heller)
5th June 2017

Seed conservation in the remote South Atlantic

Tom Heller describes the important role of seed conservation in protecting vulnerable plants, while Kew Associate Phil Lambdon recounts the challenges involved in his visit to Gough Island.
Image showing the paired fruit of Marsdenia abyssinica
9th May 2017

Recurating the Apocynaceae carpological collection

Clare Drinkell and Nina Davies, curators in Kew’s herbarium, describe the mammoth task of reorganising the Apocynaceae carpological collection.
Asian farmer with her cows on rice plantation in An Giang, Mekong Delta, southern Vietnam (Image: Phuong D. Nguyen /
2nd May 2017

Burping cows are heating up our planet but scientists can stop them

New research led by scientists at Kew has revealed a ‘vicious cycle’ of warmer temperatures, tougher plants and increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from livestock; but changing livestock diets may be the solution.
Dominican Republic (Image: T. Ulian)
24th April 2017

Conservation and sustainable use of native trees in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean

Kew scientists Efisio Mattana and Tiziana Ulian discuss how Kew’s Global Tree Seed Bank project aims to preserve seeds from tree species across the world, including Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

13th April 2017

Putting Tropical Important Plant Areas on the map

Kew scientist Colin Clubbe reveals the first area to formally qualify as a Tropical Important Plant Area (TIPA), which was identified during a workshop held in the British Virgin Islands.

11th April 2017

POWO puts botanical knowledge online

Kew has launched Plants of the World Online (POWO), a website that’s open to all, with information on Kew’s vast botanical collections and floras.

Image showing Lauren Gardiner making a herbarium specimen from a leaf from a young adult Tahina spectabilis, near Amparahibe
3rd April 2017

Revisiting the Madagascan suicide palm: a spectacular discovery

In a surprise final part of the Tahina spectabilis story, Lauren Gardiner reveals a stunning discovery the team made in Madagascar last year after their return to the original site at Antsingilava, which they can only now reveal and which has just been published in the international conservation journal, Oryx.

Image showing gigantic Dypsis carlsmithii in Palm Hotspot Analalava
30th March 2017

Working with local botanists in Madagascar: fieldwork in a biodiversity hotspot

MSc students from Kew and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) reflect on experiences from their field trip to Madagascar, where they worked with local botanists and saw astonishing plants and fungi.

21st March 2017

For the love of trees

Kew celebrates International Day of Forests and reveals what is being done to protect trees for future generations.

Image showing high rates of erosion are causing the Betsiboka River in western Madagascar to turn red
21st March 2017

Conservation in Madagascar: MSc field trip experiences

This year’s MSc students have just returned from their exciting field trip to Madagascar. Yannick Woudstra (MSc student) tells us about the students’ experiences with conservation and field work in this biodiversity hotspot. In Part one Yannick looks at Madagascar’s difficult conservation story.

Bothrops asper is considered the most dangerous snake in Central America. (Image: Dogymho, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)
27th February 2017

Can plants be used to treat snakebites?

Peter Giovannini and Melanie-Jayne Howes in Kew’s Natural Capital and Plant Health Department assess the scientific evidence supporting the local use of plants to treat snakebites.

Collecting Potamogeton acutifolius, Norfolk
23rd February 2017

Banking the UK’s Seeds: the MSB UK Programme

The last decade has seen a range of dynamic and innovative developments in UK biodiversity strategy and policy, in response to the many challenges facing our environment and wider wellbeing.

Flowers of Paubrasilia echinata with the characteristic blood red upper petal (Image: L.P. de Queiroz)
14th February 2017

New species roundup: Kew’s 2016 discoveries

2016 saw the publication of over 450 new genera, species and varieties of fungi and plants in papers co-authored by Kew scientists and their collaborators around the world. Of these, more than 200 can be directly ascribed to Kew scientists themselves.

China Williams in one of the Plenary meetings
30th January 2017

Kew at the UN Biodiversity Conference

China Williams, from Kew’s Conservation Policy team, discusses updates from the UN Biodiversity Conference that took place in December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico.

Hupda representative explaining a basket woven with Heteropsis flexuosa roots
24th January 2017

Mobilising Richard Spruce’s 19th century Amazon legacy

The extraordinary collections and observations made by the English naturalist, Richard Spruce in Brazil are finding their way out of the archives and back to their country and communities of origin, stimulating new research and perspectives on people and plants in the Amazon.

A small fraction of the huge diversity of flower heads within the daisy family
16th January 2017

Effeuillons la marguerite (let’s pluck the daisy)

Scientists from Kew’s Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology department discuss the fascinating structure and diversity of daisy flower heads, with the help of an old, ‘romantic’ game.

Picking ripe coffee (harvesting) at Yayu. (Image: Jeremy Torz, Union Hand-Roasted Coffee).
12th January 2017

Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and climate resilience in Ethiopia’s wild coffee forests

We often hear about the negative impacts of growing coffee, such as deforestation, non-recyclable paper cups and even enforced labour, and sometimes about the positive benefits that coffee brings to farmers and their communities. But could we do more?