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About the Millennium Seed Bank

Today, 60,000 to 100,000 species of plant are faced with the threat of extinction. Plants provide the air we breathe, clean water and we all rely on plants for food. Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plants world wide with a focus on plants most at risk and most useful for the future.
Photo of a scientists in the MIllennium Seed Bank vault
In the MIllennium Seed Bank vault

Together with our partners in 80 countries worldwide, we have already successfully saved seeds from over 13% of the world's wild plant species.

By 2020, our aim is to secure the safe storage of seed from 25% of the world’s bankable plants. We target plants and regions most at risk from climate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities. We also save the seeds of the world's plant life faced with the threat of extinction, and those that could be of most use in the future.

The seeds we save are banked at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst, and in our partner seed banks around the world.

Latest seed count: 34,088 wild plant species and 1,980,405,036 seeds in storage

Why Kew saves seeds

Today, between 60,000 and 100,000 species of plant are faced with the threat of extinction – roughly a quarter of all plant species.

Plants are dying out largely due to the activities of people. Clearing of primary vegetation, over-exploitation and climate change are all causing species losses.

We need plants, because plants are useful. Plants provide the air we breathe, they provide clean water, fuel, building materials, fibres, resins and we all rely on plants for food.

Plants also play a vital role in combating climate change. Plants maintain the atmosphere and counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, turning it into plant material. Kew’s projects are supporting plants in mitigating and adapting to our changing climate.

Plants hold potential for our future

We already know of thousands of plants that are useful to people, but many more have the potential to be useful in the future.

Over 30,000 species of plant are edible, but we use only a tiny fraction of these in commercial agriculture. In the future we may well need a much greater range of species, particularly if climate change alters growing seasons or the world’s population continues to increase and we run out of prime agricultural land.

Plants are also vital for medicine. About 70% of the world’s population relies on traditional plant remedies for medicine. Only one in five plant species have been screened for use in medicine. Cures for diseases could lie in many of these unscreened species.

We can't afford to let these plants, and the potential they hold, die out. 

It is undeniable that the Millennium Seed Bank project in Burkina Faso, through both the seed collecting and the use by local communities of wild plant species, which are particularly well adapted to increasing drastic conditions generated by climate change, is perfectly anchored in my country’s forestry policy.

Mr Salifou Sawadogo, Minister of Environment Burkina Faso

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, which opened in 2000, is located at Wakehurst in West Sussex and is an integral part of the visitor experience, together with the Mansion and gardens.

As well as providing space to store thousands of seed samples in a large underground vault, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank includes advanced seed research and processing facilities and a state of the art exhibition about seed conservation.

The exhibition area is housed in the Orange Room, which is located between the two laboratory wings. The public can observe seed research and conservation in action in the laboratories, which are visible through glass walls.

How you can help...

Plants are under threat in today's world. Each day the world’s plants are more and more at risk. If we continue on our current path, we will lose a species a day for the next 50 years.

By making a donation to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, you can help one of the largest and most ambitious conservation projects in the world make a real difference.

Give now and help Kew save the world’s plant life for the future


Our funders

  • The Arcadia Fund
  • Edward P. Bass/The Bass Charitable Corporation
  • The Buffini Chao Foundation
  • Citi Foundation
  • Defra
  • The Darwin Initiative
  • The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Settlement
  • Maite Garcia-Urtiaga
  • GlaxoSmithKline plc
  • The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment
  • Richard & Kara Gnodde
  • Goldman Sachs International
  • The Kirby Laing Foundation
  • MAVA Fondation pour la Nature
  • Players of People’s Postcode Lottery
  • Pot Family Foundation
  • The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Jake and Hélène Marie Shafran
  • The Sfumato Foundation
  • The Garfield Weston Foundation
  • Donors to the Kew Fund