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Overview of collections at Kew

Find out more about Kew's botanical and mycological collections as well as its library, art and archive collections.

The collections at Kew

With over 8.5 million items, Kew houses the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world. They represent over 95% of known flowering plant genera and more than 60% of known fungal genera.

The collections include around 7 million dried plant specimens in the Herbarium (including 74,000 in spirit); over 1.25 million dried fungal specimens in the Fungarium; over 150,000 glass microscopes slides detailing plant micro-traits; 100,000 economic botany specimens; the world’s largest wild plant DNA and tissue bank (including 48,000 DNA samples representing over 35,000 species and around 7,000 genera); and over 2 billion seeds (from over 37,000 species) in the Millennium Seed Bank; one of the world’s largest plant and fungal Library, Art and Archive collections; and a living collection of over 19,000 plant species spanning two sites (Kew Gardens and Wakehurst).

‘Science Collections at Kew’ painting by Anita Barley - a selection of significant objects representing Kew’s diverse scientific and economic botany collections.

Alongside the physical collections, Kew holds a vast and growing collection of plant and fungal-related data and databases storing information on collections, names, taxonomy, traits, distributions, phylogenies, phenology and conservation.

Global biodiversity science relies on information, images and samples of living organisms being readily available to researchers. To maximise reach and impact, these resources and data need to be digitally available and thus discoverable, accessible and citable. Kew is committed to sharing its collections and knowledge for the benefit of scientific research, government policy and public understanding of plant and fungal diversity. Approximately 20% of the botanical and mycological collections are currently digitally available and we aim to make 80% digitally available by 2020. 

See a summary of what the Collections department contains below:

All Kew collections

Herbarium Size: c. 7 million preserved dried specimens plus 75,000 specimens preserved in spirit.

Fungarium Size: c. 1,250,000 preserved dry fungal specimens.

Economic Botany Collection Size: 100,000 specimens. A broad range of samples documenting use of plants by people, including 42,000 wood collections.

Microscope Slide Collection Size: c. 150,000 specimens. Microscope slides documenting plant and fungal anatomy, including c.35,000 slides of pollen, c.36,000 slides of wood.

DNA and Tissue Bank Size: 58,000 specimens. 48,000 samples of plant genomic DNA stored at -80°C and 10,000 silica dried tissue samples at room temperature.

Living Seed Collection Size: 80,000 specimens. Seed collections representing over 37,300 species, held in the Millennium Seed Bank, with over 2 billion individual seeds.

Library Size: 300,000 specimens. Printed monographs and pamphlets covering the naming, classification and uses of plants, plant ecology and conservation, wild plants of the world, botanic gardens and herbaria worldwide, the history of gardening and garden design and the development of botanical illustration.

Illustrations & Artefacts Size: 200,000 specimens. 200,000 prints and drawings, assembled over the last 200 years and ranging in date from the 18th century to the present day. Additional works on paper, portraits, photographs, and three dimensional objects chart the history of botany and the enduring role played by Kew.

Archives Size: 7,000,000 sheets of paper in 4,600 collections. Unpublished material comprising correspondence, notebooks and photograph albums, records of plants received at Kew and sent out from Kew, and maps and plans tracing the development of the Gardens.

Further links

Learn more about Kew's Collections Department

Kew's Collections Department manages the botanical and mycological collections at Kew. See here to learn more about their activities and ongoing projects.

Back to Collections at Kew

Find out more about Kew's botanical and mycological collections as well as its library, art and archive collections.

Kew Science Blog: Botanical Wonders in Warrington

Read one of Kew's Collections Department's blogs to find out more about the interesting work that they do.