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The Wood Collection (Xylarium) Of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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The wood collection of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (United Kingdom) has its origin in the founding of Kew’s Museum of Economic Botany in 1847. In the nineteenth century specimens came from explorers and botanists; from imperial institutions such as the Indian Forest Department, and from international exhibitions (world’s fairs). Woods were labelled with their names and properties, creating an educational exhibit aimed particularly at forestry students. In the early twentieth century wood specimens from aristocratic estates formed the basis of a new museum of British Forestry. The foundation of the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew in 1876 led to more research in plant anatomy, but sustained research in wood anatomy and the creation of a major collection of plant anatomy slides dates from the 1930s. Since that time, accessions have come from other wood collections (sometimes the transfer of whole collections), from Kew’s botanical expeditions in Brazil and Southeast Asia, and often as institutional or personal gifts from wood anatomists in other countries. The woods now number 34,314 and form part of the Economic Botany Collection, kept in a purpose-built research store and with a collection database available online. As well as enabling plant anatomy research, the woods are increasingly used by historians, and for wood isotope studies, biochemistry etc.


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