PLANTS: FROM ROOTS TO RICHES – John Murray to publish book to accompany landmark 25-part BBC Radio 4 series with the Royal Botanic Gardens,Kew

John Murray Publishers, an imprint of John Murray Press, will publish the book to accompany a major new BBC Radio 4 series Plants: From Roots to Riches.

17 Jun 2014

This summer BBC Radio 4 is to broadcast a major new series that will explore our changing relationship with plants from Carl Linnaeus and the birth of modern botany right through to the modern day.

Created in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and presented by Kew’s Head Director of Science, Professor Kathy Willis, Plants: From Roots To Riches will feature unprecedented access to the rich heritage and ongoing work of scientists at one of the world’s oldest botanical institutions.
The 25-part series will begin broadcasting on BBC Radio 4 on 21st July, and will delve into Kew’s archive and its world-class collections – including the Herbarium with over 7 million preserved plant specimens – to tell the story of how modern botany was born around the time of Kew’s establishment in 1759 and how the last 250 years transformed our relationship with plants.  It will go on to examine how subsequent changes in scientific, economic and social preoccupations have influenced our attitudes to plants – from tools to exploit for food, fuel and industry, to objects of beauty, to being an essential global resource that must be conserved.
Publisher Georgina Laycock, who earlier this year published the book to accompany BBC Radio 4 award-winning series Tweet of the Day, acquired rights from the BBC and Kew Gardens, and Plants: From Roots To Riches will be published on 14th August 2014.  

Publisher Georgina Laycock says: ‘Kew is a much loved British institution with ties all over the world, as well as being a hugely popular tourist attraction, receiving 1.6 million visits in 2013.  But its amazing contribution to science has been overlooked until now. As the British Empire painted the atlas red, explorers, adventurers and scientists brought the most interesting plant specimens and information back to London, and to Kew. How we see the world today is down to its teams of experts. Taking you on a journey through 250 years in the life of a uniquely world class institution, this book will also tell the history of our culture and of the development of modern science.  I’m so excited to be publishing it.’

Professor Kathy Willis, Head of Science, RBG Kew says: ‘It is an absolute privilege to be able to take this journey of discovery and tell the story of people and plants over the past 250 years. Britain’s botanical heritage is incredibly rich in compelling, memorable tales of adventure and discovery, politics and conflict, breathtaking beauty and, ultimately, our dependency on plants.  I hope this series will encourage listeners to look at plants in a new light. Our future depends on us adapting in order to live in better balance with the natural world, and plants have some of the answers to help us do that and address global challenges that we are faced with on a daily basis.’




Plants: From Roots to Riches is going to be a beautifully designed hardback, packed with 200 images in both colour and black and white from Kew's amazing archives, some never reproduced before. With fascinating historical insights into heroes and villains, memorable stories and interviews, the book takes us on an exciting rollercoaster ride from past to present and shows us how much plants really do matter.


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.; @kewgardens


KATHY WILLIS is director of science at Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. She is also professor of long-term ecology and a fellow of Merton College, both at Oxford University. Winner of several awards, she has spent over 20 years researching and teaching biodiversity and conservation at Oxford and Cambridge.

CAROLYN FRY is the former editor of Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographic Society and has travelled the world in search of stories. She has written five successful books, including the acclaimed Plant Hunters: the Adventures of of the World’s Greatest Botanical Explorers.

For further information please contact Rosie Gailer:
020 7873 6452 or