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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.
Magnolia stellata, a member of Magnolia subgenus Yulania (Image: G. Kite)

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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Filling in the gaps: seed collecting for the future

Sarah Cody explains how gap analysis is helping our partners collect the seed of crop wild relatives (CWR) for a project called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change', run jointly by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
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Image showing artist’s impression of elephant birds on a beach in Madagascar

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.
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Transverse section of Aristida pungens leaf (Image: A. Musson & E. Gray)

Our year so far: internships at Kew

Three of Kew’s science interns reveal the projects they have been involved in during their 12-month placements, and explain how they have put into practice what they learnt at university

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Photo of Lapeirousia silenoides

Pollinator-driven speciation in painted petal irises

Félix Forest, Head of Molecular Systematics at Kew, describes the co-evolution of pollinators and painted petal irises in the Greater Cape of South Africa.
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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

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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Photo collage of a selection of specimen sheets from Kew’s herbarium collections.

Plants to pixels: enhancing access to Kew’s herbarium collections

As the proportion of Kew’s herbarium specimens accessible online passes a significant milestone, we highlight how researchers and the wider public can explore and interact with these remarkable, and largely hidden, collections.
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Booklouse (Liposcelis bostrychophila)

Battle of the booklice

Kew’s Herbarium and Library are fighting an ongoing battle with pest insects that can feast on dried plant specimens and precious books. Jonathan Farley and Paul Green reveal how they are tackling these infestations.

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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)

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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Photo of Passiflora phoenicea

A passion for passion flowers

Gerhard Prenner, researcher in plant morphology and anatomy, presents his recent ontogenetic study on one of the passion flowers, Passiflora lobata. He reveals insights about its peculiar flowers and highlights the Easter connection of the genus Passiflora.
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Image showing fruit of native Melocactus intortus collected for ex-situ conservation

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.

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

Scientists give a new name to Brazil’s national tree

Gwilym Lewis, Research Leader in Kew’s Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology department, explains how and why some plants are reclassified, and reveals the complications of renaming such an iconic species.

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Photo of Mt Nok New Guinea

Evelyn Cheesman’s blue orchid

André Schuiteman, senior researcher in orchids at Kew, relates the discovery by the intrepid Evelyn Cheesman of one of the very few blue-flowered epiphytic orchids, Dendrobium azureum, which he recently described as a new species.
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A picture of white fungal fruiting bodies in dung

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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Image showing some of the many products sold containing ‘ginseng’. Some of these have scientific names listed on the packaging, but this is not always the case.

The medicinal plant names maze

Liz Dauncey, Business Development Officer for Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Services, tells us how their work enables safer and more effective communication by those using medicinal plants.
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Linking plant conservation and sustainable development

To mark International Day for Biological Diversity 2015, Tiziana Ulian highlights some of Kew’s projects relating to this year’s theme – Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.

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Lab-based Collections Team

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

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.

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Photo of taknig a core sample from Diospyros

Tackling illegal wildlife trade through a scientific and partnership approach

Madeleine Groves, the CITES Implementation Officer at Kew, describes how the application of science can help combat illegal wildlife trade.
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Picture of red and yellow fruits and a white stem with white flowers

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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