Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
TypeNon-departmental public body
Key people
£65.6 million[1]

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. An internationally important botanical research and education institution, it employs 1,100 staff.[1] Its board of trustees is chaired by Dame Amelia Fawcett.

The organisation manages botanic gardens at Kew in Richmond upon Thames in south-west London, and at Wakehurst, a National Trust property in Sussex which is home to the internationally important Millennium Seed Bank, whose scientists work with partner organisations in more than 95 countries.[2] Kew, jointly with the Forestry Commission, founded Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent in 1923, specialising in growing conifers.[3] In 1994, the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, which runs the Yorkshire Arboretum, was formed as a partnership between Kew and the Castle Howard Estate.[4]

In 2019, the organisation had 2,316,699 public visitors at Kew, and 312,813 at Wakehurst.[5] Its 326-acre (132 ha) site at Kew has 40 historically important buildings; it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.[6] The collections at Kew and Wakehurst include over 27,000 taxa of living plants,[7] 8.3 million plant and fungal herbarium specimens, and over 40,000 species in the seed bank.[8]


The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew states that its mission is to apply scientific discovery and research to fully develop the information about and potential uses of plants and fungi.[9]

A conference held in 1976 by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew was important as it established a co-ordinating body in order to determine which threatened plants are in cultivation and where they are located which played a role in plant conservation.[10]


Kew is governed by a board of trustees which comprises a chairman and eleven members. Ten members and the chairman are appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. His Majesty the King appoints his own trustee on the recommendation of the Secretary of State.

As of 2023 the Board members are:[11]

Kew Science

Scientific staff

More than 470 scientists work for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[12] The Director of Science is Alexandre Antonelli. The Deputy Directors are Elizabeth Gardner, Paul Kersey and Monique Simmonds.[13]

Kew Science staff include those of the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre.[14]


The scientific staff at Kew maintain a variety of plant and fungal data and digital resources, including:[15]

Plants of the World Online

Main article: Plants of the World Online

Plants of the World Online is an online database launched in March 2017 as one of nine strategic outputs with the ultimate aim being "to enable users to access information on all the world's known seed-bearing plants by 2020". It links taxonomic data with images from the collection, to provide a single point of access with information on identification, distribution, traits, conservation, molecular phylogenies and uses. In addition it serves as a backbone for global resources such as World Flora Online.[16]

International Plant Names Index

Main article: International Plant Names Index

The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) includes information from the Index Kewensis, a project which began in the 19th century to provide an "Index to the Names and Authorities of all known flowering plants and their countries".[17] The Harvard University Herbaria and the Australian National Herbarium co-operate with Kew in the IPNI database, which was launched in its present form in 1999 to produce an authoritative source of information on botanical nomenclature including publication details of seed plants, ferns and lycophytes. It is a nomenclatural listing of all published taxonomic plant names including new species, new combinations and new names at rank of botanical family down to infraspecific. It provides data for other related projects including Tropicos and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).[18]


Information and key to flowering plants of the Neotropics (tropical South and Central America).[19]

World Checklist of Selected Plant Families

Main article: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families

The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP) is a register of accepted scientific names and synonyms of 200 selected seed plant families. WCSP is widely used, and most authoritative web resources on plants use it as their basis.[18][20]

World Checklist of Vascular Plants

The World Checklist of Vascular Plants (WCVP) includes all known vascular plant species (flowering plants, conifers, ferns, clubmosses, and firmosses). It is derived from the WCSP and the IPNI and therefore only includes names found in those databases. It is the taxonomic database for Plants of the World Online. Since WCSP includes only selected families, WCVP will seek to complete the process.[21][18]

World Checklist of Useful Plant Species

A checklist of 40,292 species, including nine non-plant taxa (e.g. nostoc, forkweed, brown algae), compiled from multiple pre-existing datasets.[22]

Collaborative projects

The Plant List

Main article: The Plant List

Kew also cooperated with the Missouri Botanical Garden and other international bodies in The Plant List (TPL). Unlike the IPNI, it provides information on which names are currently accepted. The Plant List is an Internet encyclopedia project which was launched in 2010 to compile a comprehensive list of botanical nomenclature.[23] The Plant List has 1,064,035 scientific plant names of species rank of which 350,699 are accepted species names. In addition, the list has 642 plant families and 17,020 plant genera. It was last updated in 2013, and was superseded by World Flora Online.[24][25]

World Flora Online

Main article: World Flora Online

World Flora Online was developed as a successor to The Plant List, in 2012, aiming to include all known plants by 2020.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b Annual reports 2020.
  2. ^ "How we work". Millennium Seed Bank. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  3. ^ England, Forestry Commission. "History of Bedgebury National Pinetum". Archived from the original on 16 August 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Background". The Yorkshire Arboretum. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  5. ^ "ALVA – Association of Leading Visitor Attractions". Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  6. ^ Guinness World Records 2011. Guinness World Records. 2010. pp. 69. ISBN 978-1-904994-57-2.
  7. ^ "Living Collections at Kew".
  8. ^ "Science collections at Kew".
  9. ^ RBG mission 2020.
  10. ^ Prance, Ghillean T. (December 2010). "A brief history of conservation at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew". Kew Bulletin. 65 (4): 501–508. doi:10.1007/s12225-010-9231-2. ISSN 0075-5974. S2CID 42245259.
  11. ^ "Board of Trustees". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  12. ^ "Kew Science". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  13. ^ "Science". London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  14. ^ "UK and Islands – Madagascar". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  15. ^ RBG data 2020.
  16. ^ POWO 2020.
  17. ^ Jackson 1893, Hooker JD. Preface, in.
  18. ^ a b c Turner & Govaerts 2019.
  19. ^ Neotropikey 2020.
  20. ^ WCSP 2020.
  21. ^ WCVP 2020.
  22. ^ WCUPS 2020.
  23. ^ Paton 2013.
  24. ^ a b WFO 2020.
  25. ^ The Plant List 2013.