The Salvia border > Kew Gardens > What's on (Kew Gardens) > Meet the experts guided tours

Meet the experts guided tours

Go behind the scenes on this guided walk which features a different plant or fungus each month. You'll meet Kew's experts and gain an insight into the science and history of the plant and see where it grows in the Gardens. The featured plant for August is Salvia.

Event details

Tuesdays at 11.30am. Tours last a maximum of 1½ hours.
Kew Gardens

Included with entry to the Gardens. Save on the price of your ticket when you book online

August 2017 - Salvias

During the guided tour you'll meet Kew's knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff and go behind the scenes to 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.

Meet the horticultural staff who care for the plants and fungi growing in the collections and the science staff who undertake research and conservation work behind the scenes. You'll come away with a much greater understanding of Kew's important work around the world.

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 with re-forestation and 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
  • There is a limit of 15 people per tour and places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Please be at the information desk by 11.15am. The tour will start directly at 11.30am.


Introduction to Salvias

Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family, the Lamiaceae. It currently contains more than 900 species from tropical and temperate regions of the world.

Lever pollination in salvias

Unlike other members of the family Salvia only has two stamens, rather than four. These two stamens have two heads connected by a long piece of tissue. The structure is associated with a special pollination mechanism – lever pollination.

The bird or bee pollinator enters the flower to get nectar from the base of the corolla tube. During the process the pollen is deposited on the back of the pollinator’s head via a lever like mechanism. The pollen is then picked up by the stigma of the next flower visited.

Scientists had assumed, because of this pollination mechanism, that Salvia shared a single common ancestor. DNA sequencing has shown this is not the case.

Salvia conservation

Salvia caymanensis (Cayman Sage) appears on the list of endangered species as Critically Endangered. This means that there is a very real threat to its future survival – until 2007 it was thought to be extinct.

Following an appeal, asking people to look out for the plant, in 2007 a population of this plant was found on Grand Cayman – on a roadside verge that had recently been disturbed by utilities work.

Salvias at Kew

Each year there is a stunning display of salvias at Kew with the main focus being the Salvia Border, adjacent to the Rock Garden. There are also several species planted out in the Great Broad Walk borders.

Salvia science at Kew

Many species of Salvia have medicinal properties and although the active ingredients in some are known, those in most have not been determined.

Kew scientists are investigating these medicinal properties. They have explored the use of Salvia-derived compounds in cosmetics, the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders, diabetes, cancer and as a replacement for bear bile in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The team at Kew have a unique advantage – as well as having access to the living collections, they can also be sure of the identification of their samples by consulting their taxonomist colleagues in the Herbarium.

Have you enjoyed this month's tour?

Join us in September for a look at the Compositae of the Great Broadwalk borders.