Access our Collections

Access online, arrange a visit, request a loan or send in specimens or donated material

Researcher taking specimen out of Herbarium cupboard

The Herbarium, Fungarium, Seed Collection and Economic Botany Collection are the collections that have the greatest number of scientific visits and loans per year. Find out below how to access them online, arrange a visit, request a loan or send in specimens or donated material. 

Herbarium and Fungarium

Online

There are digital versions of these physical collections but they are not yet complete. For example, in the case of the Herbarium, 850,000 specimens have been digitised (as at 2018) which represents 12% of our seven million specimens. In the case of the Fungarium 40% of the 1.25 million specimens have been digitised. To view these online, see Collections Catalogues. In addition, there are many other databases that link to our collections.

To arrange a visit  

The public can only visit these collections via special events such as open days. 
 
Academic visitors can visit the Herbarium and Fungarium during office hours by appointment. You need to apply by email at least two weeks in advance. For overseas visitors requiring a letter of support for a visa application, please ensure you apply for your visa at least three months in advance of your visit.

We need the following information:

  • Email subject Please start with the word VISIT and the date of arrival and departure, for example VISIT 20 – 23 July 2019. Please note we are closed at the weekend and public holidays. 
  • Taxonomic groups: indicate all the plant or fungal families or genera you wish to look at. 
  • Region of interest: indicate the continent and/or countries you are interested in. 
  • Exact dates of stay: please repeat this information, ensuring that there are at least two clear weeks from the email date to the date when you wish to visit us.  
  • Plant material: indicate if you intend to bring live or preserved specimens to Kew and what it is you are bringing in case permits are required, for example, CITES. Please give yourself adequate time to inform Kew as permits may take time to issue. 
  • Your details: ensure you include your full name and full address of your institution or your personal address if you are a private researcher. 
  • Confirmation: if you are a student, your supervisor will need to request the visit on your behalf to confirm that the research is required for your studies.

Visitors with potential commercial interests, for example, a representative of a commercial horticulture company, will be asked to sign the non-commercialisation undertaking. Discuss with your line manager if you are unsure about how to proceed.

Please then email this information to herbarium@kew.org and it will be picked up and forwarded to the relevant curator.

To arrange loans

We loan or exchange specimens each year to organisations worldwide. If you wish to arrange a loan or exchange please read our loan regulation policy first. Then email requests to a.paton@kew.org.

To send in specimens

Please do not send us unsolicited or unaddressed specimens or materials.  
We can only add material to our Herbarium, Fungarium that has been collected and brought into the UK according to a set of strict procedures established by international treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  

Before sending us specimens please read this and contact the relevant curator (see below).

Contact

Herbarium 
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew  
Richmond 
Surrey TW9 3AE  
UK 

Email: herbarium@kew.org 
 
The Fungarium
Jodrell Laboratory,  
Royal Botanic Gardens,  
Kew,  
Richmond,  
Surrey TW9 3AE
UK
 
Email: fungarium@kew.org

Opening hours for Herbarium and Fungarium 

9am to 5.30pm Monday to Thursday 
9am to 5pm Friday 
Closed weekends and public holidays 

Economic Botany Collection

Online

The Economic Botany Collection Database holds records of all specimens in the collection. The database can be searched by many categories, including plant name, country, region, plant part and uses. Specimen labels, Museum Entry Books, collection files and Kew’s main Archives are all important additional sources of information. 

To arrange a visit  

The public can only visit these collections via special events such group visits. 
Private researchers as well as academic researchers are able to visit by appointment. Please contact the Team Leader or Collections Assistant for more information.

Loans and sampling

Loans to other museums allow us to reach wider and larger audiences. We do everything we can to facilitate loans to suitable venues, including often sharing packaging and couriering with other London-based lenders. There are minimum requirements for security and environmental control which limit loans to certain types of venue.

Destructive sampling of raw materials, for example for DNA or chemical characterisation, is permitted for projects that meet criteria for scientific impact and methodology. Where substantial assistance in choosing samples is given — usually the case — the relevant Kew staff member is usually a co-author on a resulting publication. Sampling of artefacts is only undertaken where it will result in substantially increased understanding of the object, for example through radiocarbon dating.

To send in specimens

Please do not send in unsolicited or unaddressed specimens or materials. Before sending us specimens please contact us.

Contact 

Economic Botany Collection 
Team Leader: Dr Mark Nesbitt 

Collections Assistant: Julia Adamson

Economic Botany Collection 
Herbarium 
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew  
Richmond 
Surrey TW9 3AB 
UK
 
Email: ecbot@kew.org 

Seed Collection

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank (MSB), which opened in 2000, is located at Wakehurst in West Sussex and is an integral part of the public visitor experience, together with the Mansion and gardens. 
 
As well as providing space to store thousands of seed samples in a large underground vault, the MSB includes advanced seed research and processing facilities and a state of the art exhibition about seed conservation. 
 
Kew also manages a partnerships with other seed banks around the world – the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP). 

Online 

There are information sheets for seed collectors (available to download by pdf) covering various aspects of seed conservation practices and facilities. These are aimed at practitioners already working in seed conservation but are an interesting resource materials for visitors seeking detailed advice. Add link to where pdfs are being held

To find out more about the MSBP partners, projects and other resources visit the project page.

Seed bank partners can share data.

To arrange a visit

Members of the public can visit Wakehurst and see the outside of the MSB building.  

There is an exhibition area between the two laboratory wings and they can observe seed research and conservation in action in the laboratories, which are visible through glass walls. The public cannot normally visit the laboratories and seed vault. 
 
Academic visitors including partners should contact msbsci@kew.org direct in advance of their visit. 

Requests for seeds

Please note that we are unable to accept seed requests from private individuals and will not normally be able to reply to such enquiries. 
 
Seeds are sent out to registered customers for use in research or restoration. There are two seed lists. One list relates to supply for general non-commercial research and trialling by organisations. The other relates to supply for research, breeding and training by organisations regarding food and fodder production, in respect of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). There are instructions in English, French and Spanish. Visit the seed list for more information.

Sending in seed samples 

We would be interested to hear from organisations making seed collections from wild plant populations that might wish to send seed for long-term conservation. Please contact us before sending in samples.

The criteria for accepting samples are that they:

  • Have been collected legally (with appropriate permission from both landowner and government) and, if imported, that this has taken place legally (ie that plant health and CITES legislation has not been contravened). 
  • Are of wild provenance. 
  • Are in reasonable quantity (small collections of a few hundred seed, particularly from non-endangered populations, cause many processing and maintenance difficulties). 
  • Are recently harvested (collections that are more than a month or two old may well be dead). 
  • Are well documented and include at the very least, date collected, collector(s) and accurate location (preferably with a map reference or latitude / longitude) and, ideally, sampling, ecological and other data.

Contact 

Millennium Seed Bank 
Wellcome Trust Millennium Building, 
Ardingly 
Haywards Heath 
Sussex 
RH17 6TN
UK
 
Email: msbsci@kew.org