Bulletin 13 - March 1981: Suggestions for the Collection of Living Plants, Bulbs, Seeds etc. and Methods of Packing for Dispatch

Suggestions for the Collection of Living Plants, Bulbs, Seeds etc. and Methods of Packing for Dispatch


Plants of any size may be collected. Packing should be of a dry nature, (woodwool etc.) and packed firmly. Polythene bags should be used to cover the roots only.


Plants of any size, but preferably small, may he collected and packed for dispatch in the following manner: placed between sheets of damp newspaper or in polythene bags.

Cacti and Succulents

Where possible young plants only should be collected, as they withstand the disturbance more readily, and packed dry in woodwool, newspaper or any dry material that may be available at the time.

Ferns (General)

Only young plants to be collected. It is advisable that the roots be packed with damp moss or any other damp material available and then placed in a polythene bag, leaving the fronds uncovered; the whole plant then to be wrapped in newspaper.

Ferns (Filmy)

If there is a choice, young plants only should be collected, placed in a polythene hag, and sealed with an elastic band.

Plants in General Other Than Above

Preferably collect young plants as they withstand the disturbance and journey more readily. The roots should be enclosed in a damp packing such as moss, newspaper or any other damp material at the time. If none is available, the roots should be placed in a small polythene bag, leaving the foliage free and the whole plant then wrapped in newspaper.


All bulbs should be packed dry, even if in growth. Do not place in polythene bags.


Seeds should be collected and packeted dry when possible. The packets should be clearly marked with the contents' name, or the collector's number. Seeds may be sent in envelopes or small packages. No phytosanitary certificate or import permit is necessary when sending to Kew.

When seeds are to be dispatched on their own and time is not an urgent factor, they should be sent by surface mail. If urgent and the package is under 8 oz, ordinary air mail letter post is advisable. The lowest air freight charge for any package, no matter how small, is approximately Bpd4 and unless consignment is being sent (minimum weight 2 lbs) the air freight service should not be used.

Seeds from Fleshy Fruits

When collecting fleshy fruits, berries or drupes, they should if possible be dried out before dispatch. Otherwise each species should be placed in a stout package or polythene bag with the same name tag attached to the outside of the package to prevent loss through disintegration of label through dampness. Where long periods are likely to occur between collecting and dispatch, all fleshy fruits, berries and drupes should be dried before dispatch. Should time not permit fleshy fruits to be dried, the seeds should be removed from the fruit, cleaned, and placed in packets almost immediately.

Useful information on Packing Parcels for Dispatch by Air Transport

The dispatch of parcels from abroad by air is recommended but at the same time this is expensive. The following points may help to keep costs down:

  1. Air freight is charged by weight and volume of parcel, therefore keep parcels to minimum size, and where possible the individual contents. (see also under 'Seeds')
  2. Pack plants lightly in container without undue crushing.
  3. Always include inside the parcel the sender's name and address and the collector's name and numbers and other relevant information.
  4. Ensure that all plants have a label bearing their name or the collector's number.
  5. Ensure that all parcels are marked clearly on the outside: Living Plants, Store in Pressurized Container
  6. Address all parcel s for Kew to the Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey, England.
  7. No Import Permit is necessary when sending plants to Kew if addressed as shown.
  8. All consignments should be clearly marked on the outside: Living Botanical Specimens, No Commercial Value
  9. (Authorized Kew Staff only). Printed labels and cardboard boxes of all sizes for the dispatch of plants back to Kew may be obtained from the Tropical Department Office.
  10. For further advice which has not be covered in the above, please contact the Curator: S.W. Rawlings, Assistant Curator, Tropical Department, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


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