Professor Hugh W Pritchard

Senior Research Leader


Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology


Comparative Seed Biology


Seed biology, cryobiology, stress tolerance, recalcitrant seeds, seed longevity, germination modelling, thermal analysis

Biography Plus

I lead Kew’s Comparative Seed Biology Group, comprising five researchers and around 15 visiting scientists / students each year. The group investigates seed functional traits (germination, longevity, stress tolerance, chemical composition) with the objective: 1) to understand the adaptability and resilience of wild species’ seeds, particularly to climate change; and 2) to further plant conservation. Studies tend to be within and over plant lineages, amongst many habitats and with collaborators across the world. Access to techniques (equipment) in the laboratories of the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building (Kew, Wakehurst Place) is considerable; spanning molecular biology (qrPCR), biochemistry (GCMS, HPLC), biophysics (DSC, DMA), water relations (IgaSorp), biomechanics (puncture force), ecophysiology (environmental chambers, thermogradient plates) and cryobiotechnology  (programmable freezer, cryomicroscope, tissue culture). The Group carries out fundamental and applied seed science, including with seed companies. 

My personal research focuses on seed survival and germination. I have specific interests in the molecular basis of seed desiccation tolerance, patterns in the distribution of seed lifespan, ecological correlates of seed desiccation sensitivity and the biophysical changes in seeds (on drying and cooling) that confer storage stability. I use multispecies comparisons of the germination process to comprehend how niche preference during regeneration will be affected by climate change. The evolution of seed traits in orchids is an increasing fascination of mine. 

I have considerable experience of managing international research projects funded by the EU, NERC, the Darwin Initiative, etc. I lead for Kew on the agreements with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and am the main advocate for the development of The Kew Cryosphere.        

Qualifications and appointments Plus
  • 1978, BSc (Hons), University of Leicester
  • 1983 PhD, University of East London, CNAA
  • FLS – Fellow of the Linnean Society
  • FRSB – Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
  • MASSAf – Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa
  • Honorary Professor – University of Sussex, UK
  • Honorary Professor – Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.R. China
  • Honorary Fellow – Writtle Agricultural University, UK
  • Visiting Professor – Chengdu University of TCM, P.R. China
  • Member – NERC Peer Review College
  • Special Advisor – Crop Trust 
  • Foreign Expert – Shandong Forest Department, P.R. China
  • Chairman – Seed Storage Committee, International Seed Testing Association 
  • Trustee and Executive Committee Member – International Society for Seed Science 
  • Trustee – Society for Low Temperature Biology 
  • Executive Editor – CryoLetters
  • Editorial Board Member – Seed Science Research
Selected publications Plus

Fernández-Pascual, E., Mattana, E. & Pritchard, H.W. (2018).

Seeds of future past: climate change and the thermal memory of plant reproductive traits.

Biological Reviews 94: 439 – 456.

Seal, C.E., Daws, M.I., Flores, J., Ortega-Baes, P., Galíndez, G., León-Lobos, P., Sandoval, A., Ceroni Stuva, A., Ramírez Bullón, N., Dávila-Aranda, P., Ordoñez-Salanueva, C.A., Yáñez-Espinosa, L., Ulian, T., Amosso, C., Zubani, L., Torres Bilbao, A. & Pritchard, H.W. (2017)

Thermal buffering capacity of the germination phenotype across the environmental envelope of the Cactaceae.

Global Change Biology 23 (12): 5309–5317.  

Chen, H-Y., Yu, X-M., Pritchard, H.W. & Li, W-Q. (2017).

Phospholipase Dα1-mediated phosphatidic acid production is a key determinant of desiccation-induced viability loss in seeds.

Plant Cell & Environment 41: 50-63.

Ladouceur, E., Jimenez-Alfaro, B., Marin, M., De Vitis, M., Abbandonato, H., Iannetta, P.P., Bonomi, C. & Pritchard, H.W. (2018).

Native seed supply and the restoration species pool.

Conservation Letters 11(2): e12381.

Popova, E., Sylvestre, I., Kim, H-H., Kumar Saxena, P., Engelmann, F. & Pritchard, H.W. (2016).

Frozen beauty: the cryobiotechnology of orchid diversity.

Biotechnology Advances 34: 380–403.  

Wang, Y., Li, Y., Xue, H., Pritchard, H. W. & Wang, X.F. (2015)

Reactive oxygen species (ROS)-provoked mitochondria-dependent cell death during ageing of elm (Ulmus pumila L.) seeds.

The Plant Journal 81: 438-452.

Projects Plus

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Hugh Pritchard


Hugh Pritchard