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

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?

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Photo of a new population of Lecomtella above the Riambavy waterfall

Ancient Madagascan grass sheds light on crop evolution

Maria Vorontsova, Kew's grass taxonomist, describes how an ancient grass lineage from Madagascar could provide valuable insights into today's crop species.
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Photo of horse chestnut leaves damaged by the leaf miner Cameraria ohridella

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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Photo of Amborella trichopoda, endemic to New Caledonia

Southeast Asia as a cradle of early flowering plant diversification

Sven Buerki, from Kew’s Jodrell Laboratory, discusses the idea that islands located in the region today occupied by South-East Asia played a major role in the early diversification of flowering plants.
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Expedition vehicle stuck in mud

Conserving Madagascar’s orchids

Recent research into orchid mycorrhizal fungi, and why this work is crucial for orchid conservation and habitat restoration in Madagascar, is revealed by Kew scientist Kaz Yokoya.

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Combretum fragrans seeds

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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A small fraction of the huge diversity of flower heads within the daisy family

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.

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Laurels

What’s in a name? New version of The Plant List released

Alan Paton, Assistant Keeper of Kew's Herbarium, describes some of the problems associated with plant names and the importance of the new release of The Plant List.
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16th Flora of Thailand Conference logo

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 shows a Welwitschia plant growing flat against the sandy ground

Using evolutionary history to prioritise conservation

Using a recent example from Madagascar, Tim Harris describes how the evolutionary history of biodiverse areas can be taken into account when prioritising areas for conservation.
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Village technicians' tree nursery for the Great Green Wall in Djibo, Burkina Faso (Photo: M Sacande)

Combating desertification

Kew’s work on the Great Green Wall initiative is highlighted by Moctar Sacande, to mark the United Nations’ World Day to Combat Desertification.

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

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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A lab full of plant samples ready to burn (Photo S. Wyse)

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.

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Momordica charantia

Managing diabetes with medicinal plants

Peter Giovannini examines the potential of medicinal plants to provide cost-effective and culturally appropriate management of diabetes in Central America
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Hupda representative explaining a basket woven with Heteropsis flexuosa roots

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.

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Nepenthes ultra from the Philippines

12 new carnivorous plant species from the Philippines

Martin Cheek, a senior botanist at Kew, describes how 12 new species of carnivorous pitcher plants from the Philippines were discovered among Kew’s 7 million herbarium specimens.
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Photo of rubber shoes made from the latex of Hevea brasiliensis

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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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

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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Transverse section of Geonoma pinnatifrons subsp. vaga, a palm, showing the vascular bundles in detail. Although woody, this tissue is not secondary xylem (Photo: P. Gasson)

Wood identification supports legal timber trade

Kew botanist Peter Gasson reveals the key role that wood identification plays in supporting the legal trade of timber and its products.

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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

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.

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