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Meet the experts guided tour

Meet Kew's horticultural and science staff and find out about their work behind the scenes. September tours will focus on Compositae. Every Tuesday at 11.30am.

Event details

Tuesdays at 11.30am, tour lasts about 90 minutes

Meet at the Information desk (by Victoria Plaza café) at 11.15am. 


Included with entry to the Gardens.
Reserve your spot at any entry gate from 10am on the day
Save on the price of your Gardens ticket when you book online

Tour overview

During the guided tour you'll meet Kew's knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff and visit areas of the Gardens not normally seen by the public. You'll gain an insight into different aspects of work that Kew undertakes in areas of science, horticulture and conservation.

Depending on the featured plant or fungus, the tour could include a visit to the Jodrell Laboratory, the Herbarium or one of our nurseries. You'll see how Kew's research can be used to help people across the globe, for example with reforestation or finding alternative crops for farming in remote areas.

  • Tours will be mainly outside, but you may be taken to different areas behind the scenes at Kew.
  • All locations are wheelchair accessible.
  • Maximum of 15 people per tour.

Get your tour ticket from any entry gate from 10am on the day of the tour.

Compositae uses

The Compositae are the world's largest family of flowering plants. They're often referred to as the daisy or sunflower family. 

A recent estimate (from State of the World’s Plants, 2017) put the size at 32,581 species, included in over 1,600 genera, growing on all continents, except Antarctica.

The Compositae include a surprisingly wide range of well-known plants, from ornamental flowers, food plants, coffee substitutes, oil seeds and medicinal plants. 

Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus) are part of this family, as well as globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus), lettuce (Lactuca sativa), chicory (Cichorium intybus) and niger seed (Guizotia abyssinica). 

A popular ingredient in herbal tea, chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is also a member of the Compositae family. 

Insects love Compositae - they provide pollen and nectar, and are good sources of food for larvae.  

Compositae science at Kew

Behind the scenes in the Herbarium, Dr Nicholas Hind is busy working on describing new species from South America, and assisting writing up several Flora accounts from across the globe.

In the Jodrell Laboratory, researchers are looking at a variety of subjects, including dispersal and relationships amongst Andean species, inflorescence structure and complexity throughout the family.

Researchers are also attempting to use new generation DNA sequencing techniques, to sample multiple-genes from DNA throughout the genera. This is to gain a better insight into relationships and evolution in the family.

A significant percentage of the Millenium Seed Bank seed collections are from the Compositae, especially from areas where the family is well-represented, such as Mexico and South Africa. 

Compositae in the Gardens

You can find Compositae in the Great Broad Walk borders between the Orangery and Palm House Lake, with scattered plantings in the Cambridge Cottage garden borders. 

There are many examples in the Rock Garden, as well as in the Davies Alpine House  and the Princess of Wales Conservatory  (Macaronesian beds).

The family often contributes to the late summer and autumnal colour around the borders in the Gardens, so should be easy to spot.