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 60% of known genera of fungi.


Head of the Department: Dr Alan Paton

Assistant Head of Department: Dr John Dickie

Department objectives

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.

Key department priorities

  • Ensuring appropriate representation of the global breadth of vascular plant and fungal diversity to support our science.
  • 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 developing best practice in collection management.
  • Digitising 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.
  • Integrating 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).

Department teams

Preserved Collections - led by Elizabeth Woodgyer

Managing the flow of specimens in and out of the herbarium and curation of the Spirit and Fungarium collection, and ensuring compliance with legislation.

Specimens in Kew's Fungarium

Economic Botany Collection - led by Mark Nesbitt

Research, curation and management of our ethnographic and wood collections.

Economic Botany Collection

Digital Collection - led by Sarah Phillips

Making our Herbarium and Fungarium collections digitally accessible and managing our collections databases.

Herbarium specimen digitisation

Lab-based collections - led by Tim Fulcher

Management and curation of our DNA and Tissue Bank, and Microscope slide collection, and development of these collections to support research and access.

DNA and Tissue Bank

Seed Collection - led by Janet Terry

Managing and curating the collections of the Millennium Seed Bank and research into seed storage, longevity and germination.

Image from Kesseler & Stuppy: Seeds – Time Capsules of Life ©Papadakis Publisher

Collections the department manages

Herbarium Size: c. 7 million preserved dried specimens

Spirit Collection  Size: c. 76,000 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.40,000 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: 86,000 specimens. Seed collections representing over 38,500 species, held in the Millennium Seed Bank, with over 2 billion individual seeds.

Further information

Kew Collections department projects

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

Collections department staff

Search for staff in Kew's Collections department as well as other Kew Science staff.

Kew's scientific collections

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