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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.
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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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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