Visit Kew Garden's Millenium Seed Bank in Sussex

by KathleenDuffy

Up to ten thousand of the world's plant species are threatened with extinction. Kew's Millenium Seed Bank is working hard to save plants and habitats around the world.

In the year 2000 an astonishing £30 million Lottery Grant provided the funds to establish the Millenium Seed Bank’s efficient, modern, futuristic space. Since then, Kew's Millenium Seed Bank has been the key player in a global effort to preserve endangered plant species on a world-wide scale.

The Seed Bank makes a wonderful day out for all the family. Ever mindful that the Millenium Seed Bank is the grateful recipient of public as well as private funding, visitors are actively encouraged.

Why Save Seeds ? – How Seed Banks Ensure the Future

Phlox carnea drawn by William Miller from "The Botanical Cabinet" (London 1817-1833) plate 711
Phlox carnea drawn by William Miller from "The Botanical Cabinet" (London 1817-1833) plate 711

 Kew Gardens first thought seriously about seed storage way back in the 1890s when Britain’s plant hunters had the run of the British Empire, with all its plant diversity.

 A formal seed bank has now been a feature of Kew for over forty years, whilst research into seed physiology and how best to store samples began in the mid-1960s. Now it is accepted that there is an urgent need to ensure seeds are preserved for the future because:

  • Plants are the basis for life on earth. They support ecosystems which animals and humans depend on to survive.
  • Plants provide clean water, can be a source of medicines, and provide the air we breathe.
  • They are also beautiful and a source of sensual pleasure.
  • According to Millenium Seed Bank research, 60,000 to 1000,000 plant species are threatened by climate change, habitat loss, invasive alien species as well as over-exploitation. Therefore storing seeds provides an insurance policy for the future.
  • Plants that become extinct in the wild can be retrieved from the seed banks. The Millenium Seed Bank already holds seeds from extinct plant species.
  • Conservation methods and research can be carried out from a controlled source of plant material.
  • Seed banks educate the public and raise awareness about plant conservation.

Visiting the Seed Bank

Visitor Centre - Wellcome Trust Millennium Building
Visitor Centre - Wellcome Trust Millennium Building

The Wellcome Trust Millennium Building, named after its main funder, was designed by architects Stanton Williams and covers 5,500 square metres.

In this new Millenium building, as well as research laboratories with a staff of sixty scientific workers, there are vast underground storage vaults where samples are kept in temperatures of below 20°C.

In the Orange Room you will be able to look at  the exhibits and see computer-aided, interactive displays to learn all about Kew’s seed conservation work. There are permanent displays of the Millenium Seed Bank's work and it is also possible, during the week,  to watch scientists working in the adjacent research laboratories.

This state-of-the-art complex in the Sussex countryside, is adjacent to the Seed Bank’s previous home, Kew’s Wakehurst Place mansion. This older, Elizabethan  building is also open to the public, with themed walks, ornamental gardens and wood.

Find out more about visiting Wakehurst Place and the Millenium Seed Bank here.  


Wakehurst Place
Wakehurst Place

Aims of the Millennium Seed bank

Sculpture symbolising the seed collection stored in Millennium Seed Bank.
Sculpture symbolising the seed collection stored in Millennium Seed Bank.

The aim of the Millennium Seed Bank is to preserve those plants on a global scale that are at risk, as well as those most useful for future generations. To this end, by 2020 the Millennium Seed Bank hopes to have secured the future of twenty-five percent of the world’s plants. At the present time it has stored seeds from 25,000 species of the world’s plants.

In 2009 the Millennium Seed Bank hosted a ceremony in which the then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, deposited the billionth seed into the Bank.


You Can Save Seeds Too!

Here's some books to get you started...
Saving Seeds: The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds (A Down-to-E...

Gardeners are rediscovering the time-honored tradition of seed saving. By growing and storing your own seeds, you can save money; use seeds from plants that have thrived in your...

View on Amazon

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, 2nd Edition

Seed to Seed is a complete seed-saving guide that describes specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 different vegetables. This book contains detailed information about e...

View on Amazon

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Seed Saving And Starting

• Covers all of the essential techniques- harvesting, drying, disease and pest control, testing and germinating, and sowing

View on Amazon

The Millenium Seed Bank – a Global Partnership

Alpine Plants, Kew Gardens
Alpine Plants, Kew Gardens

In fifty countries worldwide there are organisations collecting seeds. The common aim is to collect and preserve seeds whilst always trying to improve the means for such collection.

The seeds come mainly from alpine, dryland, coastal and island ecosystems. This is because these areas are the most vulnerable to changes in the climate and therefore most at risk.

The seeds are kept in banks in their country of origin, with duplicate samples being sent to Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank where facilities are state-of-the-art.

The Millenium Seed Bank looks for plants that can only be found in specific habitats, that are important economically, or endangered. Such global work helps nations meet international objectives such as those laid down by Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Collecting and storing plants on a global scale like this has many advantages, including resources for future research into cures for diseases like cancer. In times of crop destruction by inclement weather, stored seeds can provide a new hope for the future.


The technologically superb Millenium Seed Bank has given new life, confidence and pride to the scientists who are working to save the planet’s vital plant species on our behalf.

It is well worth a visit.

Vintage Kew Gardens Items

Postcards, slides, etc. from e-bay
Updated: 03/30/2014, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 03/30/2014

Chevri, I M glad you enjoyed my article. Thanks for your nice comment. :)

chevril on 03/30/2014

Saving seed and sharing is such fun. Lovely article!

KathleenDuffy on 01/11/2014

Thank you! :)

ologsinquito on 01/11/2014

I'm pinning this one on my My Wizzley Writing Board.

KathleenDuffy on 12/12/2013

I agree WriterArtist! I expect we will soon be able to resurrect extinct species as science seems to be moving forward in this direction - or is that just dinosaurs! :)

WriterArtist on 12/12/2013

With depleting green cover the trees are facing threat, this move of saving the precious seeds is great. We should also conserve forest territories and try growing these extinct species.

KathleenDuffy on 12/09/2013

VioletRose - Thank you for your lovely comment - yes, they are really doing a good job!

VioletteRose on 12/09/2013

It is sad that many valuable plants are at the verge of extinction. It is really a great attempt by the Millennium Seed Bank to preserve the seeds. Thanks for sharing this great article!

KathleenDuffy on 12/06/2013

I agree. It's a great venture.

ologsinquito on 12/06/2013

I love the idea of saving heirloom seeds so they don't become extinct.

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