Rhododendron dalhousiae (Image: copyright Yannick Fourié)

Collections Department

Kew’s scientific collections contain over 8.5 million items, representing over 95% of known flowering plant genera and approximately 66% of known genera of fungi.

Staff and activities

Head, Collections: Dr Alan Paton

Assistant Head, Collections (and Head, Seed and Lab-based Collections): Dr John Dickie

The strength and breadth of Kew’s collections provide an unparalleled opportunity to understand plant and fungal diversity and to carry out research to support our scientific vision. Kew’s collections and expertise are at the heart of the science carried out both here and in institutions across the globe. Thus, we are developing the collections to support the science foci of this strategy, while also maintaining the global representation of plant and fungal diversity necessary to document large-scale patterns of diversity and change, and to respond to future challenges.

The work of the Collections department is focused in the following areas:

  • Ensuring representation of the global breadth of vascular plant and fungal diversity.
  • Enhancing those parts of the collections deemed to represent priority taxa, areas and/or themes; in particular, focusing on those that can be defined as agenda-setting and globally relevant in the framework of the Science Strategy.
  • Further development of best practice in collection management.
  • Digitisation to increase access to, and use of, the collections. This will include both large-scale digitisation and dissemination of in-depth data derived from collections to answer specific science questions.
  • Integration of data and information about, and derived from, individual collections, both within Kew and with complementary external information resources (for example, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility).

Collections the department manages

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.

Kew's scientific collections

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

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Kew Collections department projects

Learn more here about the interesting and diverse projects of Kew's Collections department.