Identifying a plant in the field > Kew Science > Who we are and what we do > Departments > Identification and Naming

Identification and Naming

Species discovery, naming and curation, and undertaking accurate taxonomy - the bedrock on which all of Kew’s pure and applied science is based.


Head of the Department: Dr Timothy Utteridge 

Assistant Head of Department: Dr Martin Cheek

Department objectives

Comprising four teams - Africa & Madagascar, Americas, Asia, and Mycology, the Identification & Naming Department undertakes fundamental taxonomic research, excellence in curation being directly responsible for the Herbarium and Fungarium specimens, global exploration and inventories, developing innovative projects to address Kew’s research questions.

Key department priorities

  • ​Improving the value of the collections through optimising accurate naming and curation, undertaking fundamental taxonomic research, monographing species-rich and ecologically important but poorly known groups, and improving the linkages between taxonomic knowledge and its applications.
  • The discovery, description and identification of biodiversity especially through intensifying existing efforts on tropical regions where plant and fungal diversity is high.
  • Continuing the global inventory of species and the production of Floras and eFloras in collaboration with international partners, with maximum coverage for Kew’s focal regions.
  • Driving forward e-taxonomy and new technologies for accelerating the speed at which new species descriptions are made accessible to the global scientific community.
  • Communicating our specialist knowledge through teaching, courses and outreach, whilst providing assistance to non-specialists, citizen science communities etc., through development of user-friendly identification guides in printed and electronic form.


Department teams

Africa & Madagascar Team - led by Martin Cheek

Curating specimens from Africa and associated islands, including Madagascar. Research in four TIPA countries: Guinea, Cameroon, Uganda and Mozambique. Taxonomic research on Gentianales, Lamiales, Cyperaceae and Malvales; seedbank vouchers are identified by the team.

Fieldwork expedition to Mozambique

Americas Team - led by Bente B. Klitgård

Curating specimens from the Americas (from North to South Pole); research in tropical America in a number of key plant families; we undertake expeditions to under-explored areas, e.g. Bolivia, the team’s TIPA project.

Paranephelius uniflora found in the Zongo Valley above La Paz, Bolivia. Photo copyright D.J.N. Hind

Asia Team - led by Timothy Utteridge

Responsible for specimens from Asia, SE Asia, the Pacific as well as Europe; running plant identification courses; research in SE Asia, especially New Guinea (the Asian TIPA region) and the islands of Wallacea.

Image showing Northwestern foothills of the Arfak Mountains in West Papua, Indonesian New Guinea.

Mycology Team - led by Martyn Ainsworth

Research to classify, describe and name fungi from around the world; focus on Cortinarius and British taxa; recurating and enhancing the Kew Fungarium; pioneering British fungal conservation and developing a DNA-based national checklist.

Further information

Identification and Naming department projects

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

Identification and Naming department staff

Search for staff of Kew's Identification and Naming department as well as other Kew Science staff.

Tropical Important Plant Areas - Strategic Output 2020

Learn more about Kew's strategic 2020 output - Tropical Important Plant Areas.