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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 laboratory apparatus collecting leaf exudate from aloe leaves in the Jodrell Laboratory

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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Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman to author a plant name in the Linnean system and author of A Curious Herbal.

Mind the (gender) gap: Kew's records show fewer than 3% of land plant species published by women

A unique and complete dataset created and maintained by Kew scientists over the last 260 years, has revealed a striking difference in the number of new species of plants described by male and female botanists.

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Photo of Rhododendron malayanum (Ericacaeae) from Southeast Asia

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.
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Dendrobium cuthbertsonii

The diversity of terra incognita: predicting orchid species richness in New Guinea

André Schuiteman, Research Leader in Identification and Naming, explains how we can predict the species richness of unexplored areas.

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Leaves of Tahina spectabilis individuals can be seen emerging from the other vegetation

Revisiting the Madagascan suicide palm

Kew scientist Lauren Gardiner recounts the tale of the discovery of the extraordinary Madagascan suicide palm, Tahina spectabilis. Lauren, along with a group of international botanists, recently returned to the only known location of this palm – a story which Lauren will tell in next week’s Kew Science blog
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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
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Image of a pollen grain from Passiflora lobata

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.
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Specimens in Kew's Fungarium

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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Mesembryanthemum crystallinum (Aizoaceae) plants growing in Mexico (Image: W. Stuppy)

Extreme survival of seeds on Earth and in space

Anne Visscher from Kew’s Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology department discusses extreme survival of seeds on Earth and a research proposal to send seeds to the International Space Station to test their survival in outer space.

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Sunset lights up the tsingy outcrop where the main population of Tahina spectabilis is found

Revisiting the Madagascan suicide palm: a decade on

Lauren Gardiner continues the fascinating tale of Tahina spectabilis, and recounts her journey to Madagascar to see the species in the wild, ten years after the discovery of the magnificent Madagascan suicide palm.

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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.
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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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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

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.
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Necklace from Peru of seeds of Oenocarpus, Ormosia and Coix lacryma-jobi, the woven band may be of Astrocaryum fibre (EBC 98112: Photo: F. Cook)

Botanical jewellery

New acquisitions of botanical jewellery in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection illustrate how plant parts can be transformed into fascinating cultural objects.

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

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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Aerial view of tropical forest (Image: William Milliken)

Blood, sweat and DNA: exploring the unknown Amazon

Kew’s Orchid Festival, opening this week with a Brazilian theme, features a new short film following an expedition along the French Guiana-Brazil border. The film examines how modern techniques and equipment, coupled with old-fashioned exploration, can help fill voids in our knowledge of the Amazon flora.

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Fungus-growing ants (Credit: Pepijn Kooij)

On the origin of mutualisms

Pepijn Kooij, from Kew’s Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology department discusses the importance of understanding the evolution of mutualisms in reference to fungus-growing insects.
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Photo inside the Herbarium at Kew

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.
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Image of herbarium specimen of Guianodendron praeclarum

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.
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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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