Kew's giant fungi collection

The biggest collection of fungi in the world will be created this week as Kew Gardens takes delivery of more than 400,000 specimens.

The fungi will be added to Kew's stock of more than 800,000 specimens to form a giant scientific collection.

Researchers are confident the enormous collection of 1.25 million specimens, which overtakes the million fungi specimens held by the US National Fungus Collection, will help them develop new life-saving drugs and disease resistant crops. Statins and penicillin are among the drugs that have already been developed thanks to fungi.

Among the specimens being delivered is mould – Penicillium notatum – which helped Sir Alexander Fleming discover penicillin and led to the development of other life-saving antibiotics.

Others are samples of microscopic fungi that in the early 20th-century were discovered to be behind the potato blight that led to the Irish famine, and another species that led to Dutch elm Disease.

Researchers are excited about the extent of the collection which will not only be the biggest but the most comprehensive in the world.