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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.
Photo of Rhododendron malayanum (Ericacaeae) from Southeast Asia
13th June 2014

Kew’s new Tropical Plant Identification Handbook

A new book written by botanists from Kew’s Herbarium aims to convey information about tropical plant families in an easy-to-use and accessible format. Timothy Utteridge, Head of the South-East Asia Team and generalist botanist in Kew’s Herbarium, describes how the book was developed.
Image of a pollen grain from Passiflora lobata
3rd June 2014

How quickly do tropical forests recover from disturbance?

Disturbance is not a new phenomenon in tropical forests, yet we know relatively little about how these systems have responded to perturbations in the past. Palaeoecologist Lydia Cole describes her recent research comparing relative forest recovery rates across tropical regions, disturbance types and frequencies of perturbation through time.
Photo of the Critically endangered Dypsis acaulis, discovered during a Kew expedition to north-east Madagascar and known only from a handful of individuals in an unprotected forest fragment
22nd May 2014

Island plant diversity: endangered and under-explored

This year’s International Day for Biological Diversity highlights the uniqueness of island biodiversity and the threats it faces, yet so much of island diversity remains essentially unknown. Assistant Keeper of Kew’s Herbarium and palm expert Bill Baker makes the case for Kew’s work on island plant exploration.
Image of herbarium specimen of Guianodendron praeclarum
16th May 2014

New skeleton found in Herbarium cupboard

Research phytochemist Geoffrey Kite describes the discovery of a quinolizidine alkaloid with a novel carbon skeleton in a Kew herbarium specimen.
Photo collage of a selection of specimen sheets from Kew’s herbarium collections.
9th May 2014

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.
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.
2nd May 2014

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.
Photo of Michele Sanchez with a Caicos pine
25th April 2014

Rescuing the threatened Caicos pine in the Turks and Caicos Islands

A new Darwin Plus project will take further steps to rescue the threatened Caicos pine from local extinction by guiding its future conservation based on science, experience and a long-term collaboration between Kew and Turks and Caicos Islands partner institutions.
Photo of Passiflora phoenicea
11th April 2014

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.
Photo of Amborella trichopoda, endemic to New Caledonia
1st April 2014

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.
24th March 2014

Using pesticidal plants for crop protection

Phil Stevenson, from Kew's Jodrell Laboratory, reports on how small holder farmers in Africa use wild plants to control pests and how his new projects are helping optimise their use and reduce pressure on wild habitats
14th March 2014

The Nagoya Protocol comes a step closer to fruition

China Williams, from Kew’s Conventions and Policy Section, reports on the latest international meeting to discuss a new legally binding regime governing access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits – the Nagoya Protocol.
Photo inside the Herbarium at Kew
7th March 2014

What's in a collection? The Herbarium at Kew

William Milliken, Head of Kew's Tropical America team, examines the importance of Kew's collection of over seven million herbarium specimens, and how this resource is being used to tackle the global challenges of our time.
Photo of Lapeirousia silenoides
28th February 2014

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.
Photo of Mt Nok New Guinea
21st February 2014

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.
Photo of taknig a core sample from Diospyros
14th February 2014

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.
Photo of a new population of Lecomtella above the Riambavy waterfall
7th February 2014

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.
Image of Sorbus torminalis in the snow
3rd February 2014

How did plants evolve frost hardiness?

Rafaël Govaerts from Kew's Herbarium describes the discovery of three key traits instrumental to the radiation of flowering plants into freezing environments. The results of the study were recently published online in the journal Nature and will appear in the print issue on 6 February.
27th January 2014

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.
Nepenthes ultra from the Philippines
20th January 2014

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.
Trithuria sumbersa on agar
13th January 2014

Tiny plants make a huge impact

Paula Rudall from Kew’s Jodrell Laboratory describes how comparative studies on the micromorphology of tiny plants can help us better understand flowering plant evolution