Well-known as a popular visitor attraction, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is also one of the world's leading organisations devoted to the discovery, study and conservation of wild plants.
Over 200 scientists at Kew work to document, research and protect wild plants with partners in more than 100 countries. The Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) is one example of such global co-operation, seeking to collect and conserve seeds from 25% of the world's plant species by 2020.
These collections, which are stored at -18 degrees centigrade in specially designed vaults at the MSB, will remain viable for decades or even centuries – making them a vital resource for plant research and for restoration projects designed to put threatened species back into damaged landscapes. To date, Kew have stored over 2 billion seeds from more than 35,000 plant species.
Active on five continents, the MSB is also focusing on seed conservation closer to home in Britain.
Thanks to a fantastic £625,000 raised by players of People's Postcode Lottery since 2013, the UK National Tree Seed Project is aiming to make sure that Kew hold genetically diverse collections of 50 tree and shrub species which are a vital part of our landscape. Some are rare, others are iconic and widespread – and all are facing increasing threats from habitat loss, climate change and the emergence of new pests and diseases.
2015 was Kew's busiest year to date, thanks to the tireless work and enthusiasm of scores of volunteer collectors right across the country. Kew staff have been out and about on their own collecting trips, as well as training and equipping volunteers from community groups, schools and conservation organisations. To see more about the project, visit the National Trust's website. Thanks to everyone who has helped to fund – and take part in – this important conservation project.