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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.
A picture showing the eBook Flora of West Tropical Africa on a mobile phone alongside an old volume of the Flora of the British West Indies
15th December 2014

Floras: In it for the long haul...

As Kew launches the world's first tropical regional Flora in ebook format, botanist Martin Cheek reflects on the hugely important and practically relevant information held within Floras and the future of Floras online.
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Picture of plant growing on steep cliff with the sea in the background
24th November 2014

A seed conservation network for islands of the Mediterranean Basin

An ambitious conservation project based in the Mediterranean Basin has come to the end of its first three-year phase. Sarah Hanson, from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, describes how seven conservation organisations have come together to protect the flora of this fragile region.
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17th November 2014

Crop wild relatives - creating guides for seed collectors

There is a pressing need for agriculture to adapt to climate change, and learning more about wild relatives of crop plants could help us achieve this. Laura Jennings describes how collecting guides produced by Kew help make seed-collecting fieldwork as productive as possible.
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A picture showing the white branching structure of the fungus entwined with brown roots
11th November 2014

Europe's forest fungi - diversity, distribution and fate

Fungi are responding to environmental change across Europe. Kew scientists Laura Martinez-Suz and Martin Bidartondo explain ambitious efforts to understand what is happening.
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Picture showing five men talking with an interviewer at the side of a dirt road. To the side, a botanical team are pressing specimens in plant presses
3rd November 2014

Africa's Great Green Wall - towards a sustainable future

To highlight UNESCO’s World Science Day for Peace and Development on November 10th, Serene Hargreaves from the Millennium Seed Bank describes how Kew is working with communities in sub-Saharan Africa to build a ‘Green Wall’ that will contribute to their sustainable future.
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Multiple developing flowers numbered with arrows showing the sequence of flower formation
24th October 2014

Abrus precatorius - a deadly beauty

Gerhard Prenner, researcher in plant morphology and anatomy, presents his recent studies on Abrus precatorius, a "deadly beauty" with fascinating flowers and inflorescences.
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A picture of white fungal fruiting bodies in dung
10th October 2014

Rare British fungi: genuinely uncommon or simply ignored?

Around 15,000 species of fungi have been reported from the UK, with over 2,000 recorded on only a single occasion. Does this mean that many fungi are genuinely rare and in need of conservation, or simply rarely recorded?
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Picture of red and yellow fruits and a white stem with white flowers
3rd October 2014

Discovering plant diversity – are we up to speed?

New plant species and even genera are discovered at a startling rate. Assistant Keeper of the Herbarium, Bill Baker, describes the discovery of three new palm genera and reflects on the need to accelerate the taxonomic process.
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Photo of horse chestnut leaves damaged by the leaf miner Cameraria ohridella
26th September 2014

Horse chestnut under attack

Why do some horse chestnut trees and related species of Aesculus differ in their resistance to attack by leaf miners? Research natural product chemist Tetsuo Kokubun explores a new approach to mine data mountains, to tease out needles from a field full of (chemical) haystacks.
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16th Flora of Thailand Conference logo
23rd September 2014

Documenting the plants of a tropical Asian country – the Flora of Thailand project

In September 2014 over 130 delegates gathered at Kew for the 16th Flora of Thailand Conference. Dave Simpson describes this ambitious project and Kew’s role over the five decades since it began.
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Photo of rubber shoes made from the latex of Hevea brasiliensis
12th September 2014

Curating Biocultural Collections: a manual for the 21st century

Biocultural collections are a vital tool for research into human uses of the plant and animal worlds – the field known as ethnobiology. Mark Nesbitt, Curator of Kew’s own Economic Botany Collection, tells us about a major new Kew publication on the uses and care of such collections.
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Photo of Cypripedium tibeticum
5th September 2014

Slipper orchids are closer to the edge than we thought

Recently-released IUCN Red List assessments for slipper orchids from the temperate Northern Hemisphere show that a shocking 79% of species are threatened with extinction. Mike Fay, Head of Genetics and Chair of the IUCN Orchid Specialist Group, describes Kew’s Red Listing of these iconic plants and what is being done to save them.
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Photo of Sarah Barlow controlling Rana remotely via a web interface
29th August 2014

Do alkaloids in nectar enhance pollination?

Sarah Barlow (Plant Ecologist) and Phil Stevenson (Natural Products Chemist), from Kew’s Jodrell Laboratory, report recent research on the role of floral alkaloids in the pollination of monkshood (Aconitum spp.)
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22nd August 2014

Building a climate resilient coffee economy for Ethiopia

Aaron Davis describes how Kew scientists are helping to build a climate resilient coffee economy strategy for Ethiopia via a rigorous assessment of the influence of climate change on coffee-producing areas and wild coffee forests.
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Alder seed collections ready to put in the dry room at the Millennium Seed Bank (Photo: S. Kallow)
14th August 2014

Saving the UK’s tree seeds: a resource for science

The UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP) is working to better understand and conserve seeds from the UK’s woody flora. The project will build a national ex situ seed collection that is both genetically comprehensive and comprises sufficient seeds to support research and conservation.
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Poppies
4th August 2014

A tale of two poppies

James Wearn, leading a project called ‘Kew Gardens at War’, describes how one poppy helped to keep pain away during wartime while another poppy lets us remember and reflect on the pain and sorrow of war.
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Photo of gallery forest in Madagascar
30th July 2014

Mycorrhizal research supports orchid conservation in Madagascar

Madagascar is home to more than 1,000 species of orchid of which about 90% are endemic. Kew’s Head of Conservation Biotechnology, Viswambharan Sarasan, describes progress in the identification of orchid mycorrhizae, and how this could help future orchid conservation and restoration programmes.
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21st July 2014

Plants: From Roots to Riches

Kew's Director of Science, Professor Kathy Willis, describes the BBC Radio 4 series Plants: From Roots to Riches, which goes to air today at 1.45pm. The series provides a unique examination of the major breakthroughs in botanical science, as seen through the lens of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
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Photo of dried porcini in a shop in Italy
4th July 2014

Discovering new species of porcini using food, phylogenetics and fieldwork

New species of porcini are turning up in all sorts of locations, from tropical Australia to your local food market. Kew's Head of Mycology, Bryn Dentinger, describes how these discoveries are helping to unveil the origins of porcini and their complex evolutionary history.
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Photo of laboratory apparatus collecting leaf exudate from aloe leaves in the Jodrell Laboratory
23rd June 2014

Unravelling the evolutionary history of Aloe vera and its relatives

Plantasia, Kew’s summer festival celebrating the positive effects of plants, is underway. Researcher Olwen Grace highlights investigations in the Jodrell Laboratory on Aloe vera, one of the most widely used plant species in the world today, and other aloes.
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