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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.
Board of Foundation, Flora Malesiana
1st August 2016

Kew goes to the Flora Malesiana 10 symposium

Kew scientists report back after attending a symposium focused on South-East Asian taxonomy, systematics and conservation.

Brassica oleracea growing on a cliff edge in Cornwall (Image: M. Chester)
26th July 2016

Taming the Savage Cabbage

Researchers from Kew’s Plant Resources team ponder the transformation of wild plants into crops – the process of domestication that enabled the rise of civilisation.
Princess of Wales Conservatory
19th July 2016

Medicinal properties of succulent plants

Olwen Grace, Research Leader in Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, and PhD student Madeleine Ernst from the University of Copenhagen, discuss evolutionary studies of the medicinal value of succulent plants.

Image showing fruit of native Melocactus intortus collected for ex-situ conservation
14th July 2016

Tropical Important Plant Areas in the British Virgin Islands

Kew’s UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) team recently returned from a successful launch of the Tropical Important Plant Areas project in the British Virgin Islands. Rosemary Newton reflects on the highlights of this trip.

Image showing artist’s impression of elephant birds on a beach in Madagascar
4th July 2016

Madagascar's orphans of extinction

Researchers in Comparative Seed Biology, Wolfgang Stuppy and Aurélie Albert-Daviaud, explain how some Madagascan plants are living on 'borrowed time' following the extinction of their seed dispersers.
Thistle Dump Cemetery with the notorious killing ground of High Wood behind (Image: J. Wearn)
27th June 2016

Plants and conflict landscapes – the Somme and beyond

James Wearn and Andrew Budden describe the context for their recent expedition to the Somme, and explain how Kew’s former Director, Sir Arthur Hill, inspired their research.

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum (Aizoaceae) plants growing in Mexico (Image: W. Stuppy)
20th June 2016

Extreme survival of seeds on Earth and in space

Anne Visscher from Kew’s Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology department discusses extreme survival of seeds on Earth and a research proposal to send seeds to the International Space Station to test their survival in outer space.

Dendrobium cuthbertsonii
13th June 2016

The diversity of terra incognita: predicting orchid species richness in New Guinea

André Schuiteman, Research Leader in Identification and Naming, explains how we can predict the species richness of unexplored areas.

Oak forest at 2,700 m in the Talamanca Mountains, Costa Rica. All the canopy trees are Quercus and about 40 m tall (Photo: A. Monro)
6th June 2016

What inspires a research idea?

Alex Monro, Research Leader in Identification & Naming, explains how he developed a proposal to understand and evaluate the importance of wet, high elevation oak forests for conservation in Latin America.

Charlotte teaching a group of Master's students to make a herbarium specimen (Photo: I. Larridon)
27th May 2016

Training the trainers in Guinea

In February 2016, Kew Africa and Madagascar team members Martin Cheek, Charlotte Couch and Isabel Larridon travelled to Guinea in West-Africa for fieldwork and to train local botanists.

Bombus terrestris feeding on Rhododendron ponticum (P.C.Stevenson)
24th May 2016

Hidden poisons in rhododendron nectar

Philip Stevenson (Plant Chemist) and Alison Scott-Brown (Plant/Insect Ecologist) from Kew’s Natural Capital and Plant Health department report on the toxicity of natural chemicals in the nectar and leaves of Rhododendron.

Image showing Afzelia africana in Sierra Leone (X.van der Burgt)
16th May 2016

Pollen and pollinators in legumes

Kew scientist Hannah Banks, a member of the Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology team, speculates on whether we can use pollen structure to predict which species are vulnerable or resilient to environmental change.

Image showing the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), previously thought to be related to the true waterlilies, but now known to be more closely related to plane trees and banksias
9th May 2016

APG - classification by consensus

Kew scientist Mike Fay discusses the issues with classifying flowering plant species, and the efforts made by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG) to reclassify species using technological advances in DNA sequencing.

A large piece of tapa showing multi-legged creatures, probably made in the Cook Islands and dating to 1820-50. Just four pieces are known with this design in other museums – and all have an obscure origin (Photo: F.Lennard)
3rd May 2016

Unpacking tapa: the science and culture of Pacific barkcloth

Mark Nesbitt, Research Leader for Economic Botany, reports on a major new research project using Kew’s historic collections.

Fruit market in Sucre (Photo: G. Lewis)
25th April 2016

Bolivian Botanical Conference in Sucre

Kew scientist Bente Klitgård reports back from the 3rd Bolivian Botanical Conference in Sucre, and explains the importance of scientific conferences.

A lab full of plant samples ready to burn (Photo S. Wyse)
18th April 2016

Assessing the flammability of New Zealand plants

Sarah Wyse, an Early Career Research Fellow in our Collections Department, describes the first empirical study to measure the flammability of a range New Zealand plant species, recently published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire.

Image showing the results of a prolific day of plant and fungus collecting in Madagascar
11th April 2016

Tales from the tropics

Kew MSc students write home from Madagascar, where they are currently in the field.

5th April 2016

Experts to gather at Kew to discuss the State of the World's Plants

Kew science officer Laura Rozario reveals the hot topics to be discussed in the forthcoming State of the World’s Plants Symposium to be held at Kew this May.

Participants on the CWR Malaysia training course search for crop wild relatives
29th March 2016

Gaps in global wild crop collections

Danielle Haddad and Ruth Harker report on the results of the global gap analysis paper 'Global Conservation Priorities for Crop Wild Relatives', published in Nature Plants on 21 March 2016.

Ectadiopsis thulinii, the type specimen grown to flower in Brentford (Photo: M.Gilbert)
8th March 2016

Kew's successful year of discoveries

In 2015, Kew scientists and their collaborators from around the world published 149 species of plants and fungi new to science, as reported in the Independent on Sunday. Martin Cheek reveals the stories behind the species.