Mayor cultivates fruitful botanical relationship with Singapore

29 November 2014

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today (Saturday 29 November) confirmed Kew Garden’s position as the world’s leading centre of expertise for botanical science as he visited Singapore’s Botanic Gardens and highlighted the important role of London’s institutions abroad.

On the third day of his trade mission to forge closer ties to the Far East, accompanied by key scientists from London’s internationally renowned Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), the Mayor lent his support to Singapore’s bid for its botanic gardens to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In an effort to assist their bid for World Heritage Status, RBG Kew has also opened its archives to Singaporean researchers giving them unprecedented access to a wealth of original historic and scientific documentary evidence of the two garden's long relationship dating back to the 19th century.

If successful in its bid, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens will join RBG Kew in its World Heritage Site status, putting it on a par with the Acropolis and Stonehenge. Global partnerships is one of RBG Kew’s greatest strengths, as the historic botanic gardens work with a variety of institutions, NGO’s and other botanic gardens in over 100 countries around the world.

Kew is hosting scientists and horticulturalists from Singapore, and is sending its mycology (fungus) expert to Singapore as part of a research fellowship to develop fungal diversity science in the South East Asia region. The 74-hectare Singapore Botanic Gardens, established in 1859, are central to the city state’s aspirations to become known as a ‘garden city’.

The gardens contain the region’s most significant orchid garden including flowers dedicated to Margaret Thatcher and the late Princess of Wales which was recently visited by her son the Duke of Cambridge and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge. In 1877, a batch of 22 Para Rubber seedlings was sent from Kew Gardens to Singapore which, once grown and dispersed, became the catalyst for the revolutionary rubber industry of South East Asia.

Over the years they have continued to collaborate on a range of scientific research projects across plant diversity and the conservation of Southeast Asian tropics. Both gardens now wish to formally recognise this long-standing relationship and to promote its continuance for many years into the future through the shared collection, study and conservation of plants.

Today, the Mayor joined Dr Nigel Taylor, the director of the Singapore gardens as they examined specimens in the herbarium and discussed both gardens’ aspirations to strengthen their scientific and cultural connections.

Speaking at the gardens the Mayor said: “Singapore’s relationship with one of our most quintessentially British brands is testament to the huge appetite there is for London’s expertise overseas. The outstanding hard work of London’s world-renowned Kew Gardens, to nurture and develop other botanical and scientific centres across the globe, has been benefiting its younger cousin here in Singapore for almost 150 years. Partnerships like these, as they continue to flourish, are enhancing London and the UK’s reputation around the world, and will go on driving jobs and growth in the capital for many centuries to come.” Richard Deverell, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew says, “The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has an international reputation the global resource for plant knowledge, based in Greater London it is part of the city’s cutting edge knowledge economy. Kew is looking forward to working even more closely with the Singapore Botanic Gardens, through science, conservation and horticultural collaborations.” Dr Nigel Taylor, Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, says, “The Singapore Botanic Gardens has a close and long-standing relationship with Kew Gardens through the years, as both gardens share similar objectives in conservation, botanical science and heritage. We look forward to strengthening and deepening our connection with Kew for many more years to come.” ENDS NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • Singapore's first bid for a UNESCO World Heritage Site began with the submission of the Singapore Botanic Gardens' (SBG) official Nomination Dossier to UNESCO in February this year. UNESCO’s decision on SBG's nomination could be received as early as June 2015.
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract over 1.5m visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately half its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales. Last month the President of Singapore, Mr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, and his wife visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as part of a State Visit to the UK.
  • From Kew the Mayor was joined by Michael Murphy, CEO Kew Foundation; Professor Monique Simmonds, Director Kew Innovation Unit and Marta Lejkowski, Associate Director, Principal Gifts
  • The visit to Far East is part of a series of trips that the Mayor is undertaking to key overseas markets, including the Gulf region, China and India, all of which he visited in the last 18 months. The aim of the visits is to attract foreign investment, promote export, create jobs in the capital ensuring London’s status as a leading global city, boosting cultural ties and building on the huge exposure London received as a result of hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • The UK is the second largest European investor in Singapore, whilst the UK is Singapore’s fourth biggest EU trading partner, after Germany, France and the Netherlands.
  • The senior business delegation travelling with the Mayor of London include: Eileen Burbidge, Alexander Jeffrey , Anthony Pidgley , Sir Michael Hintze Tom Cartledge , Marcus Agius , Louise Brooke-Smith
  • The UKTI delegation from The Mayor’s Export Programme are small businesses focusing on Technology and Life Sciences sectors as part of the Mayor’s work to assist companies entering overseas markets
  • The Mayoral trips are supported by his promotional organisation London & Partners. London & Partners is the official promotional organisation for London. Our company attracts and delivers value to business, students and visitors. London & Partners is a not-for-profit public private partnership, funded by the Mayor of London and a network of commercial partners. Please visit for more information.

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