Kew Gardens


Kew Gardens
a park in west London, England, which contains a large collection of plants, trees, etc. from all over the world and is a major centre for the study of plants. Its official name is the Royal Botanic Gardens and it was opened to the public in 1840 by Queen Victoria. It is very popular with tourists and local people, and among its famous buildings are the Chinese Pagoda (= a tall tower) and several very large greenhouses, including the Palm House (opened in 1848). Kew Gardens became a World Heritage Site in 2003.
See also Banks.

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Botanic garden located at Kew, site of a former royal estate in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames.

In 1759 Augusta, dowager princess of Wales and mother of George III, laid out a portion of her estate as a botanic garden. It became an eminent scientific institution under the unofficial directorship of Joseph Banks. In 1840 the gardens were donated to the nation. Under Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785–1865), they became the world's leading botanical institution. Today they are home to 50,000 different types of plants, a herbarium of more than 5 million dried specimens, and a library of more than 130,000 volumes. The three museums at Kew are devoted largely to economic plant products and a laboratory of plant genetics and classification.

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 botanical garden located at Kew (World Heritage site), site of a former royal estate in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames.

      Privately owned gardens were tended at Kew from as early as the 16th century. The site was acquired from the Capel family in 1731 by Frederick Louis, Prince Of Wales, and by Augusta, dowager princess of Wales, who established a garden for exotic plants in 1759. By 1769 it contained more than 3,400 plant species. The gardens became famous under the management (1772–1819) of Sir Joseph Banks (Banks, Sir Joseph, Baronet), and its collections grew to include specimens from all over the world. Under the direction (1841–65) of Sir William Jackson Hooker (Hooker, Sir William Jackson) and his son Joseph Dalton Hooker (Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton) (1865–85), the Kew Gardens became a centre for scientific research and the international exchange of plant specimens. In 1840 the gardens were conveyed to the nation, and by the early 20th century the grounds were expanded to the present size of 300 acres (120 hectares). Kew originated the plantation industry of rubber and still plays an important role in plant introduction and as a quarantine station. (See and the rise of Asian plantation rubber.)

      Kew Gardens contains some 33,400 taxa (taxonomy) of living plants, an Herbarium of approximately seven million dried specimens representing 98 percent of the world's plant genera, and a library of some 130,000 volumes in addition to archived materials, periodicals, and prints and drawings. The collections of tropical orchids (orchid), succulents (succulent), tropical ferns (fern), and Australian plants are exceptionally fine. Since 1965 Kew has administered a botanical “outstation” at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex; in 1974 the Kew Seed Bank was established there.

      Sir William Chambers (Chambers, Sir William) designed the orangery (1761), a superb example of Georgian architecture; the Pagoda (1757–62), a 163-foot- (49.7-metre-) high Chinese-style tower; and several lesser monuments and landmarks. Newer constructions include the Princess of Wales Conservatory (1987), the Sir Joseph Banks Centre for Economic Botany (1990), and a visitors centre (1992). A Japanese Garden was opened at Kew in 1996.

      Among the publications of the institution are the Kew Bulletin (issued quarterly) and Kew Scientist (issued biannually). The Index Kewensis, which is edited at Kew, maintains a record of all described higher plant species of the world from the time of Linnaeus.

      In 2003 Kew Gardens was made a World Heritage site.

Additional Reading
Lucile Brockway, Science and Colonial Expansion: The Role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens (1979), treats the Kew's role in 18th- and 19th-century colonial science and agriculture. Mea Allan, The Hookers of Kew, 1785–1911 (1967), discusses Kew under the Hookers' tenures. Two general books are William Bertram Turrill, The Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, Past and Present (1959); and Ray Desmond, Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens (1995).

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Universalium. 2010.

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