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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.
Volunteers surveying for the rust fungus Puccinia scorzonerae on Scorzonera humilis (viper's-grass) (Photo: T. Wilkins)
1st February 2016

The Lost and Found Fungi project

Brian Douglas describes how the Lost and Found Fungi project at Kew aims to help develop British fungal conservation, by trying to find out which 'lost' species are truly extinct and which species are simply under-recorded due to lack of survey work.

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The seeds of Abrus precatorius L., widely used for jewellery, contain a potent toxin. MPNS has collated c 70 names of use within the pharmaceutical literature as well as 8 different scientific synonyms. (Photo: G.Lewis)
26th January 2016

Kew’s Plant Names Services adopted by global health regulators

Bob Allkin explains how Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) is involved in helping the world’s health regulators to ensure that herbal products are traded safely by supporting development of an important new medicinal standard.

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Foxglove (Digitalis pupurea) with terminal peloric flower (Photo: P.J. Rudall)
11th January 2016

Weird and wonderful foxgloves

Paula Rudall, Head of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, reflects on how careful observation can reveal weird and wonderful structures.

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Cactaceae are amongst the most threatened species in Brazil. Cipocereus bradei is a fascinating endemic the Espinhaço Range in central Minas Gerais (Photo: N.Taylor)
4th January 2016

Growing knowledge: the Brazilian List of plants and fungi

Daniela Zappi, one of 575 authors of the second edition of the Brazilian List of Plants and Fungi, explains how this project has improved knowledge of her native country’s biodiversity.

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Botanical ingredients of a Christmas pudding (Photo: M. Fay)
16th December 2015

The botanical origins of a Victorian Christmas pudding

Have you ever thought about the botany behind a traditional Christmas pudding? Here Michael Fay reveals the botanical secrets of an old family recipe.

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Coffea arabica fruits, known by coffee farmers as 'cherry' (Photo: A.P.Davis)
15th December 2015

Coffee chemistry and the search for the tasty, pest-free bean

Paul Green and Aaron Davis explain how scientists at Kew and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are exploring some interesting areas for future research to combat coffee pests, using naturally occurring coffee chemicals and pesticidal plants.

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Achuar household (Photo: P.Giovannini)
7th December 2015

Medicinal plant knowledge shared amongst Amazonian ethnic groups

Peter Giovannini describes his study on the traditional knowledge of the Achuar (Jivaro) and how this relates to the knowledge of other Amazonian ethnic groups.

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Collecting seed of Brahea armata (blue hesper palm) endemic to Baja California (Image: W.Stuppy)
23rd November 2015

Saving the endemic and endangered flora of Baja California, Mexico

Michael Way describes the importance of an integrated plant conservation strategy for the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

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A ridge of the Chimanimani Mountains, viewed from a school compound in the Zomba area (Photo: M.Cheek)
16th November 2015

From the forests and woodland of Mozambique

Martin Cheek describes his recent expedition surveying and collecting specimens from remote, virtually unexplored regions of Manica, Mozambique, guided by the knowledge of local communities.

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Melocactus azureus grows on limestone outcrops in Bahia and is Critically Endangered (Photo: N.P. Taylor)
1st November 2015

The most threatened cacti

Kew botanist Daniela Zappi is one of the authors of a paper highlighting the extinction risk faced by the charismatic cactus family, and is involved in helping the Brazilian government to improve the measures taken to protect cactus species.

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Scans produced with 10x objective and extended depth of field showing transverse sections: (L>R) Swietenia humilis (standard hardwood) and Dalbergia retusa (non-standard hardwood) (Photo: A.Musson)
26th October 2015

Digitising Kew's microscope slide collection

Members of Kew's Lab-based Collections team describe the first steps in the process of digitising Kew's large and diverse microscope slide collection, which includes thin sections of leaves, stems, roots, wood, flowers and pollen.

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The Marama bean, Tylosema esculentum (Photo: T.Ulian)
15th October 2015

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and Kew’s Science

Following the UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015, which took place at the end of September, Paul Wilkin explains how Kew is making a significant contribution to the UN’s sustainable development goals through its biodiversity science. Kew will use the goals as a focus of its science activities during the 15 year time frame.

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Combretum fragrans seeds
12th October 2015

Sowing the seeds of science for our future

Director of Kew, Richard Deverell, explains why 2015 feels like it may end up being a watershed year for the environment, and how when science and politics come together in harmony, great things can be achieved.

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Cortinarius uraceisporus, a webcap recently described as new to science from Finland (Photo: K.Liimatainen)
9th October 2015

Celebrating the importance of mycological research

Although Kew is mostly known for its work on plants, a large part of the research is focused on the diversity and importance of fungi. Pepijn Kooij explains how mycologists at Kew are working to understand a wide variety of topics in fungal biology and the importance of fungi for plant diversity.

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Specimens in Kew's Fungarium
9th October 2015

Introducing Kew's Fungarium and its treasures

Lee Davies, Fungarium Collections Assistant, introduces Kew’s Fungarium, which represents the most comprehensive collection of fungi in the world and is one of only several collections of fungi with a dedicated research team.

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Lab-based Collections Team
28th September 2015

An introduction to Kew's DNA and Tissue Collection

The Lab-based Collections team at Kew describe the DNA and Tissue Collection and its relationship to the wider scientific community.

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Magnolia stellata, a member of Magnolia subgenus Yulania (Image: G. Kite)
14th September 2015

Magnolias, molecules and memories

Compounds new to science have been discovered in magnolia flowers thanks to Kew's small molecule analysis facilities, as Analytical Methods manager, Geoffrey Kite, explains.

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Shrubs of Skytanthus acutus (Apocynaceae) in the flowering desert, June 2015 (Photo: M.Way)
7th September 2015

Rainfall reveals botanical treasure in the Chilean Atacama Desert

After more than a decade of botanical exploration in the north of Chile, scientists from Kew and the Agricultural Research Institute of Chile (INIA) have secured unique seed collections for the Millennium Seed Bank.

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A day in the life of a botanical curator
24th August 2015

A day in the life of a botanical curator

Professor Kathy Willis (Director of Science) pays tribute to Kew’s curators and the huge range of roles they fill, taking inspiration from a poem written by Lesley Walsingham, Assistant Curator, Asia Team.

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Cover of the book, using illustrations of medicinal plants drawn by the Yanomami researchers
10th August 2015

Medicinal knowledge in the Amazon

As the Yanomami of Brazil publish their traditional medicinal knowledge for the first time, in collaboration with Kew, William Milliken explores the transfer of traditional knowledge both within and outside traditional communities.

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