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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBGK)

Collections & Expertise

RBGK has the largest living reference collections in Europe and an extensive preserved collection of vascular plant material and fungi. It willl offer access to the: Preserved and reference collections herbarium collections (7 million specimens); Spirit collection (70,000 databased); economic botany collection (70,000); Living collections (40,000 taxa).

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Herbarium World’s biggest seed bank of wild-collected seed
Best historical collections from India, West Africa, Sub-saharan Africa and tropical America
Digital image capture and databasing
Systematic anatomy of plants, nomenclature, multi-access identification keys
Secondary plant chemistry and biological activity
Collections management and seed physiology
Living collections Largest collection of living temperate vascular plants from all regions of the world
Jodrell Laboratory Largest preserved collection of fungi globally
Molecular systematics of higher plants
Library 150,000 books, 200,000 botanical drawings and 4,000 journal titles

Supporting Facilities and Services

Access to the material in RBGK’s Collection, genome analysis and molecular systematics suite, including a 'state-of-the-art' Genome In-Situ Hybridisation (GISH) capacity, and organic chemistry laboratories (complementary NHM’s molecular biology unit and comparative strength in inorganic chemical analysis) will be made available. Users will be integrated into RBGK research including collaborating with the leading plant molecular systematics laboratory in Europe.

Information Technology and Access

All of the living collections are databased. The living collections database can be searched via the web. 11 new imaging and databasing instruments are now available which will be available to Users. RBGK has very significant plant databases available through ePIC (the electronic plant information centre) including the International Plant Names Index (1.3 million names), SEPASAL (the survey of economic plants from arid and semi arid lands), the DNA c-value database, Kew Record of Taxonomic literature, library catalogue, checklists including global geography of 150 plant families available on the web, vascular plant families and genera and world grass species.

Research supported by the infrastructure

At RBGK there are five interconnected and mutually reinforcing programmes: Baseline Plant Diversity Research – data repatriation to enable accurate biodiversity assessment globally. Comparative Plant Biology – research into new coffee phylogeny informing coffee plant breeders and coffee manufacturers. Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Resources – research on micronutrient content of dryland wildfoods is being used to inform health and agriculture policy for Governments in areas suffering from desertification. Conservation and Environmental Monitoring – aim of the seed bank is to collect 25% of the world’s flora by 2020, to aid species recovery programmes and habitat restoration in Europe.

Recent highlights

RBGK: Baseline Biodiversity Research: With FR-TAF produced a taxonomic revision of Madagascan legumes (80% of Madagascar’s 573 native legumes are endemic). RBGK will produce a web-based global checklist for monocotyledons this year. Comparative Biology: A new tool for phylogeny has been developed (supertrees) for grasses. Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Resources: Work on Miscanthus with researchers from Eire resulted in data that is being applied to biomass studies to develop an energy-efficient fuel. Conservation and Environmental Monitoring: The Survey of Economic Plants from arid and semi-arid lands – EU funded project together with African partners to expand the accessibility of data on useful plants to local people.