Wednesday, May 4, 2011

a trip to Kew Gardens anyone?


Scientists at Kew Gardens (UK) first thought about seed storage in 1898, and there has been a formal seed bank for over 40 years. Extensive research into seed physiology and storage has been undertaken since the mid 1960s.

It was 1902 RBG Kew applied to register 'Millennium' as a trademark for seeds and plants. In 1973 the Physiology section transferred to Wakehurst Place in Sussex, an hour or more from the Kew Gardens site. The 1995 proposal for the MSB project was announced and by 2000 the Welcome Trust Millennium Building opened.

An already keen interest to visit the Millennium Seed Bank in Sussex increased a couple of months ago following exchanges with key people in the UK organisation about the possibility of spending time on-site there. An invitation that issued from there was received with much excitement prompting discussions here re funding, time frames and other pragmatic matters. Too early to add anything more on this as yet ... this invitation was readily welcomed, coming as it did after finally catching up from last year's busy pace whilst casting my eyes around for fresh departures. Now open for bright ideas re sponsorship options I've been cooking up options of my own whilst working on other projects.

Something that became apparent last year was the confusion around essential information on seeds, biodiversity, and areas of Plant Science in the general public. In the exchange with the MSB the topic of communications with the broader public was addressed ... something of great interest to myself... especially in 2011 when we're looking at the next 10 years as a "Turning Point" for how we address of planet's issues with biodiversity and sustainability.

6 years ago I was teaching Geography, Marine Environment and Commerce over a term in a secondary school. Other terms... other subjects. As a substitute teacher one is expected to keep things rolling, cover certain allocated topics and fit in basically with the 'program' in the broadest sense.
The ocean was less than a kilometre due east and a huge lake maybe 500 m to the west.... and there I was, in a concrete box with 25 fifteen yr olds, reading a musty text book on 'The Marine Environment' in 50 minute lots. Students in this class tended to spend time on the lake, in boats, fishing, or at the beach, swimming, surfing... it was a vivid experience for them... just as well thought I as we sat in the concrete room...with no equipment to even watch film of the marine world! 
What was revealing though was the level of concern these students had over what was going on with their local water playgrounds, at The Great Barrier Reef up north, in marine habitats everywhere. I remember another time marking essays on what's happening in ocean's due to plastics and noting intense feeling and grief over this phenomenon. The essays were actually painful to read... not due to poor spelling, lack of grammar etc but the fact of this blighted inheritance unlike anything I'd encountered when at the same age!

6 years teaching across disciplines, observing the moments of cognition and real discussion, it struck me that the students were getting it, maybe a whole lot more than many adults. They're also gaining education on changing circumstances, absorbing new ways of learning, responsive to a fast-changing world...and generally possess energy and openness. 

What I wonder more about is how adult's are navigating these same changes...the so-called  general public... how do we become aware of change, the need for it, the call for flexibility and adaptability..  our relationship to eco-sustainability in all its complexity?

To spend time at Kew, particularly at the MSB, would offer more than simply a chance to further what was started last year. The UK is reportedly addressing changes sweeping through the world with a greater sense of urgency than we are in Australia. Certainly, the Head of Kew Gardens, Stephen Hopper (who interestingly grew up not too far south of Brisbane) has made leading statements about the "turning point" we've reached, the necessity of plant science and such. When he called for a global transformation on the scale of the ending of colonisation and slavery I was compelled to learn more about the vision of this centuries old Botanic Garden and the potential of this organisation to be a lighthouse for change... which to my way of thinking is precisely what is needed in all kinds of forms across the globe. Below you can read about the Breathing Planet program which has built into its format extensive collaboration and sharing with other Botanic Gardens and partners.

If we accept that we really do live in a time of heightened imperative to learn and adapt then I cant think of a better process than to engage, collaborate and share knowledge, ideas and methods... and to learn from those who are engaging in these models of working. Botanic Gardens should be dynamic places, especially so into the future! In 2009 I termed the Botanic Garden "a living Library" ... perhaps subconciously gleaned elsewhere ... it's certainly a definition that speaks to me.

Well ... Ive posted additional images and stories here for you to read. Wish me well on my quest to materialise this hoped for plan...its a little nerve-racking wondering! Early days though... it remains to be seen.

Breathing Planet Programme

Sustainability needs plant science. Kew holds the world’s greatest concentration of knowledge about plants. We work globally with other botanic gardens and partners to help reduce the extent and impact of climate change, and to rescue species and habitats from destruction.
The Breathing Planet Programme has seven key actions:
  • driving discovery and global access to essential information
  • identifying highly threatened species and regions
  • helping global conservation programmes on the ground
  • safeguarding 25% of species through the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership
  • building a global network to restore damaged habitats
  • growing locally appropriate species for a changing world
  • using botanic gardens to inform and inspire.

Millennium Seed Bank building
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place

Visit the Millennium Seed Bank located at Wakehurst Place in Sussex. See scientists at work and discover how Kew is helping to safeguard the world's most endangered plants.


The Millennium Seed Bank Project offers many opportunities for worldwide botanical collaboration to combat species loss. It is the world's largest seed bank devoted to wild species conservation. The collection and conservation of seeds aimed at 10% of the world's seed-bearing flora, some 24,000 species, by the year 2010.
© Explore Kew Gardens

This has been achieved with international partners in a collaborative collecting and
conservation programme focussing primarily on the world's arid and semi-arid regions.
 These included many of the world's poorest countries
where almost one billion people live.

© Explore Kew Gardens
One of the first major goals achieved, helped by 250 people from 37 organisations, was to
collect seeds from all of the UK's 1400 native plants, over 300 of which are endangered species.

Here are some videos from Kew - on the Millennium Seed Bank Project.

At the moment in London there is a special event taking place at the British Museum:

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 19: Head of Gardens at Kew Stephen Ruddy waters plants in the new Australia Landscape installation at the British Museum on April 19, 2011 in London, England. The landscape developed by Kew Gardens forms part of the Austalia Season on the British Museum forecourt, and includes rare and unique plants from accross Australia. The exhibition opens to the public from April 20 to October 2011. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) 19/04/2011

  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition
  • British Museum And Kew Gardens Launch New Australia Exhibition

From 21 April to 16 October 2011, the Museum's forecourt will be transformed into an Australian landscape.
This photo album charts the development of the project from the research stage to the installation and throughout its opening

Dicksonia antarcticaBrachychitonAustralia LandscapeAustralia LandscapeAustralia LandscapeAustralia Landscape

Some highlights of the landscape

WattleAcacia baileyana and A. dealbata

Produces abundant pollen and is used as a bee plant in the production of honey.
Find out more at

Evergreen kangaroo pawAnigozanthos flavidus

Young rhizomes of this plant are consumed by Indigenous Australians.
Find out more at

Coast banksiaBanksia integrifolia

Specimens of coast banksia were collected on Captain Cook’s circumnavigation of the globe in the Endeavour in 1768–1771.
Find out more at

Australian tree fernDicksonia antarctica

Indigenous Australians ate the pith of this fern raw, or roasted it over ashes.
Find out more at

Tasmanian blue gumEucalyptus globulus

This species is the floral emblem of Tasmania.
Find out more at

Tea treeMelaleuca alternifolia

Traditionally, Indigenous Australians used crushed tea tree leaves to treat skin infections.
Find out more at

Sturt’s desert peaSwainsona formosa

Named after Charles Sturt – a 19th century explorer who searched in vain for an inland Australian sea.
Find out more at

Wollemi pineWollemia nobilis

The oldest Wollemi pine alive today is around 1000 years old.
Find out more at

BalgaXanthorrhoea preissii

These plants are resistant to fire.
Find out more at

Australia Landscape Kew at the British Museum

Experience an Australian landscape in the heart of London with the fourth landscape on the Museum’s forecourt created in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Take a journey across the whole continent, from eastern Australia’s coastal habitat, through the arid red centre, to the western Australian granite outcrop featuring unique and highly endangered plants. The landscape showcases the rich biodiversity of Australia, and how these fragile systems are under threat from land usage and climate change. This is particularly important as Australia has one of the world’s greatest concentrations of geographically restricted species (known as endemics). 90% of Australian plants are only found in Australia.
One of the key plants in the landscape is the Kurrajong tree, the inner bark of which is used to make dilly bags which you can see on display in the related exhibition in Room 91. Another featured plant is Banksia integrifolia, one of around 80 species named after Sir Joseph Banks, who from 1773 acted as unofficial director of Kew; under his supervision Kew became one of the foremost botanical gardens in the world. Banks was the natural historian on the Endeavour during James Cook’s first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand 1769–1771, and he brought back many new species to both the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Swathes of strongly coloured Brachyscome iberidifolia (Swan river daisies) and Rhodanthe (Everlastings) add colour throughout the landscape, and approximately 12 star plants are highlighted to show the connections with the Museum’s collection, Kew’s work in Australia and links between the British Museum, Kew and global communities.
Exhibition on view 21 April – 16 October 2011.
Image: Banksia marginata. Photo: Andrew McRobb, Tasmania 2005. © Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
For more information about the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, visit www.kew.or


Sophie Munns said...

How delightful!
This morning a lovely blogger emailed with some seriously excellent suggestions to follow up on.

The sun is shining, and I'm very touched with the thoughtfulness shown.

I also have the lovely Barista at my fav cafe on board for a special one month sponsorship - possibly July. More on that later.

What's that saying about "there are many ways..." - must find that journal with that saying by Rumi!

Have a good day all!

Mlle Paradis said...

oh my oh my! i can barely stand it - Kew! too exciting. i adore that place - have never been to wakehurst but would love to visit you there Sophie!

glad you already have angels working on your behalf. will have to put on the thinking cap here......

and i'll have to make sure i make it there for the australia at british museum exhibit too! xoxo

Sophie Munns said...

Your'e enthusiasm is infectious MP!
Angels ...prob a few out there! A few boxes ticked... more details to work through ...fingers crossed it'll all come together!
Catch up at the MSB...thats an idea!
S xo

Anonymous said...

!!!!!!!! Way to make it happen Lady!!! I am so excited for you. xo

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