Popular name for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey, England. They were founded in 1759 by Augusta of Saxe-Coburg (1719–1772), the mother of King George III, as a small garden and were passed to the nation by Queen Victoria in 1840. By then they had expanded to almost their present size of 149 hectares/368 acres and since 1841 have been open daily to the public. They contain a collection of over 25,000 living plant species and many fine buildings. The gardens are also a centre for botanical research.
The herbarium is the biggest in the world, with over 5 million dried plant specimens. Kew also has a vast botanical library, the Jodrell Laboratory, and three museums. The buildings include the majestic Palm House (1848), the Temperate House (1862), both designed by Decimus Burton, and the Chinese Pagoda, some 50 m/165 ft tall, designed by William Chambers in 1761. More recently, two additions have been made to the glasshouses: the Alpine House (1981) and the Princess of Wales Conservatory, a futuristic building for plants from ten different climatic zones, built in 1987. Much of the collection of trees at Kew was destroyed by a gale in 1987.
Since 1964 there have been additional grounds at Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, West Sussex. The Millennium Seed Bank opened there in November 2000. The £80 million seed bank is the largest in the world and aims to collect and freeze seeds from 24,000 plant species (10% of the world's known species).