Visit to Kew Gardens – Herbarium and Fungarium

We spent the day at Kew Gardens visiting the herbarium, fungarium, library, and laboratories. The herbarium houses over seven million plant specimens. Dried and pressed plants are attached to sheets of paper detailing the name, place, collector, date of collection, altitude and land properties from which they came. The specimens include the original types, upon which descriptions of new plants are still based – we the saw original arabica coffee type. Each is stored cupboards classified in order of family, genera and species. The collection continues to be extended as new species and relationships are discovered. In the fungarium we saw various samples including some collected by Darwin. In the library we saw beautiful examples of botanic art, old and new, including illustrations from the Ortus Sanitus from 1485. We were also shown the scanning electron microscope and laboratories where specimens are analysed and confiscated chunks of wood such as ebony seized by UK customs and border control.