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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 Sarah Barlow controlling Rana remotely via a web interface

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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MSB seed vault (Image: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Evolutionary diversity in the Millennium Seed Bank

John Dickie, Head of Seed and Lab-based Collections at Kew, describes an approach to measuring and maximising the evolutionary diversity conserved in seed banks of wild species.
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The Lubango Escarpment in SW Angola – an area of high diversity and endemism still revealing new species (Photo: D. Goyder)

Angola’s hidden flora

Botanist David Goyder describes how Kew’s inventory work and recent participation in a major international expedition to Angola is helping to address gaps in our knowledge of plant diversity in southern Africa.

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Collecting seed of Brahea armata (blue hesper palm) endemic to Baja California (Image: W.Stuppy)

Saving the endemic and endangered flora of Baja California, Mexico

Michael Way describes the importance of an integrated plant conservation strategy for the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

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A large piece of tapa showing multi-legged creatures, probably made in the Cook Islands and dating to 1820-50. Just four pieces are known with this design in other museums – and all have an obscure origin (Photo: F.Lennard)

Unpacking tapa: the science and culture of Pacific barkcloth

Mark Nesbitt, Research Leader for Economic Botany, reports on a major new research project using Kew’s historic collections.

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Image showing some of the reference publications on grasses written by scientists at Kew over the last 130 years.

Growing our knowledge of grasses

Maria Vorontsova, Research Leader in Comparative Plant & Fungal Biology discusses the importance of grasses and reflects on Growing the Grass Classification: an international scientific meeting which took place in July.

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Trithuria sumbersa on agar

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
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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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Phalaenopsis amabilis (L.) Blume, painted by Marianne North.

Discovering new orchids

André Schuiteman, research leader in Identification & Naming at Kew, describes how new orchid species are discovered and how we could speed up the process of discovery.
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Maesa ramentacea, a species of tropical Primulaceae (Photo: T. Utteridge).

More than cowslips: Primulaceae goes tropical

Our improved understanding of plant evolution has resulted in changes to many well-known families. Here, Tim Utteridge and Ruth Bone discuss their Primulaceae research, including the expansion of the family to include several tropical woody members.

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Achuar household (Photo: P.Giovannini)

Medicinal plant knowledge shared amongst Amazonian ethnic groups

Peter Giovannini describes his study on the traditional knowledge of the Achuar (Jivaro) and how this relates to the knowledge of other Amazonian ethnic groups.

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Bombus terrestris feeding on Rhododendron ponticum (P.C.Stevenson)

Hidden poisons in rhododendron nectar

Philip Stevenson (Plant Chemist) and Alison Scott-Brown (Plant/Insect Ecologist) from Kew’s Natural Capital and Plant Health department report on the toxicity of natural chemicals in the nectar and leaves of Rhododendron.

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Sustaining life and agriculture in the Peruvian desert (O. Whaley)

Sustaining life and agriculture in the Peruvian desert

Kew scientist Oliver Whaley describes recent research in the Peruvian desert, working with large-scale farms to research, safeguard and restore plants.

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Range of chromosome sizes in angiosperms.

When it comes to genomes, size matters

Jaume Pellicer and colleagues from Kew's Jodrell Laboratory describe the immense variation in the amount of DNA in flowering plants and why, when it comes to genomes, size really does matter.
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Photo of Cypripedium tibeticum

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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Collecting seed of Agave schawii ssp. goldmaniana for the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, Baja, Mexico (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Safe for the future: seed conservation standards

Elinor Breman reflects on the development and implementation of seed conservation standards across the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership network.

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Coffea arabica fruits, known by coffee farmers as 'cherry' (Photo: A.P.Davis)

Coffee chemistry and the search for the tasty, pest-free bean

Paul Green and Aaron Davis explain how scientists at Kew and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are exploring some interesting areas for future research to combat coffee pests, using naturally occurring coffee chemicals and pesticidal plants.

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Image showing Afzelia africana in Sierra Leone (X.van der Burgt)

Pollen and pollinators in legumes

Kew scientist Hannah Banks, a member of the Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology team, speculates on whether we can use pollen structure to predict which species are vulnerable or resilient to environmental change.

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Herbal medicines on sale in South Korea (Photo: Gaël Chardon, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Trade in threatened medicinal plants - why plant names matter

Jason Irving, from Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) project, explains why plant names pose practical problems for the regulation of international trade in medicinal plants, and what Kew is doing to help.

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Eligmocarpus cynometroides immature fruits

A snapshot of extinction in action

Dion Devey and Sven Buerki, from Kew’s Jodrell Laboratory, discuss their research into the critically endangered Madagascan plant, Eligmocarpus cynometroides.
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