Seedlings for the UK Native Seed Hub (Credit: Wolfgang Stuppy)

About the UK Native Seed Hub

The UK Native Seed Hub was launched as part of Kew’s response to decades of habitat loss and fragmentation.

The challenge

Since the mid-twentieth century, species-rich habitats in the UK have been destroyed or degraded at an alarming rate. In some cases the losses have been catastrophic: over 97% of lowland grassland in England and Wales has been lost in the last 75 years, with profound consequences for biodiversity and the ability of ecosystems to sustain services essential for human well-being and prosperity.

Surviving patches of habitat are unsustainably small and fragmented, vulnerable to further degradation in the face of a changing climate and ever-growing demands on the natural environment.

In the ground-breaking 2010 report, Making Space for Nature, Sir John Lawton and colleagues set out an ambitious new strategy for conservation - to rebuild nature on a landscape scale, creating coherent and resilient ecological networks to expand and link existing habitats with buffer zones, wildlife corridors and areas of active restoration and habitat creation.

Making Space for Nature -The Lawton Report (pdf)

The approach outlined in the Lawton report has been widely integrated into government policy, but delivering this strategy will depend on the availability of a diverse range of high quality, UK native-origin seed.

Research commissioned by Kew into the supply of British native seed has revealed a number of issues which have the potential to impact on the creation of a coherent and resilient ecological network in the UK.

These include:

  • a number of desirable species are missing from the commercial market, with others sourced from a narrow geographical range
  • some of the seeds and plants marketed as UK native may be sourced abroad
  • seed quality is variable and largely untested, with mixed awareness of best practice standards in seed harvesting, processing and storage
  • awareness and understanding of the importance of native seed is mixed, with limited demand for high quality products and the additional costs and lead-in times they may require
  • controls on the use of non-native plant material in habitat restoration are limited

Summary of research findings (pdf)

UK Native Seed Hub 10 Year Business Plan (pdf)

Our response

The UK Native Seed Hub is Kew's response to these concerns, mobilising our unique resources and expertise in support of Sir John’s vision of a Britain where 'biodiversity is enhanced and the diversity, functioning and resilience of ecosystems re-established'.

UK Native Seed Hub - what we do (leaflet) (pdf)

Kew's response was made possible by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, as Kew was one of the 15 organisations selected to receive a gift marking their 50th birthday.

Providing high quality seed 

The Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) holds collections of almost all UK-native plant species in its vaults. We are adding to this unique resource every year, prioritising multi-origin collections of key restoration species, making new wild harvests and bulking-up existing collections in our seed production site at Wakehurst.

We have opened our vaults with a UK seed list that will enable users to search our available collections and request seed. Seed will be available for bona-fide conservation or restoration use only, in quantities suitable for direct use in small-scale projects. For larger projects where we cannot provide seed in sufficient quantities ourselves, bulking up may be done by commercial producers.

Supporting seed producers and conservation organisations

RBG Kew and the MSB have world-leading expertise in seed collecting, processing, storage, germination and plant establishment, with long experience of providing seeds, plants and specialist advice to conservation and restoration projects in the UK and around the world.

Building awareness and demand

We are keen to work with all those with an interest in growing, conserving and restoring wild plants to the UK, using our projects, partnerships, research and publicity to promote best practice habitat restoration and conservation using high quality UK native plant materials.

All are welcome to visit our seed production site at Wakehurst to learn more about the project and enjoy stunning wildflowers, interactive displays and sculpture designed to celebrate the native plants and traditional management techniques that have shaped the British countryside.