They're a series of talks from September to April and have the wonderful air of the village flower show about them, all quite genteel and edifying. I mean that as a compliment!
One of the first ones I went to in 2007 (that's the link to the original listing there, on The Lecture List) was archaeobotanist Mark Nesbitt's talk on what you can glean about a society from its wheat (for example charred grains suggests a bit of cooking) and all sorts of fascinating things about wheat itself. Mark's since become a mate (we run the big ethnobotany group on Facebook) and through him I've found out about all sorts of fascinating events and courses such as botany for beginners at Kew and a two-week course in economic botany held in Leiden and run by David Mabberley. I recommend that course, it was wonderful. Plus Mark's told me about plenty of one-day events and film screenings and evening talks, some given by Mark himself.
Here's what Kew has to say about its own KMIS (Kew Mutual Improvement Society) lectures:
KMIS Horticultural Lecture SeriesFor some reason they've hidden the actual KMIS lecture listings in a PDF. Perhaps this is intentional and I am going to peeve them a bit by copying and pasting it here and giving it to Google to index and share more widely. Oops. Well obviously if they ask me to hide them again I shall, so make the most of the info while it's in the wild :)
KMIS lectures run on Monday evenings from September - March each year, and are open to the general public. They cover a wide range of topics of horticultural and botanical interest.
The Kew Mutual Improvement Society was established in 1871 under the auspices of Joseph Dalton Hooker. The Society programmed a season of horticultural lectures for the benefit of student gardeners at Kew.
Check out the nominative determinism there on 21 October. And 28 October too, kinda ;)
Jodrell Lecture Theatre, RBG Kew
£2 entry. Schedule may be subject to change. See website
23 Rocky mountain high – alpine plants of Colorado
Thomas McCarter (Kew Diploma Student)
30 Gardens in a royal landscape – the Savill and Valley Gardens in Windsor Great Park
Mark Flanagan (Keeper of the Gardens, Windsor Great Park)
07 Rethinking the lawn
Lionel Smith (PhD Researcher in Horticulture. University of Reading)
21 No-one knows about wild flowers anymore? Does it matter?
Charles Flower (Countryside restorer)
28 Exploring Britain’s native plant medicine – old wives’ tales or old and wise tales?
Lara Bean (Medical Herbalist)
November04 Floral treasures of eastern Turkey
Kit Strange (Kew alpine horticulturalist)
11 Giant tortoises and heterophyllous plants – the uncut story of Mauritius and Rodrigues
Amy Moffett (Kew Diploma Student)
18 Flower gardening and the natural world – a sideways look. And where is all the energy going?
Edward Green MBE (Founder member of theAncient Tree Forum. Conservation Consultant/
25 Greening Tokyo – urban planting in one of the world’s most densely populated cities
Suzanne Patman (Kew Diploma Student)
02 The restoration of Gravetye Manor
Tom Coward (Head Gardener)
09 Parks and plantings in southern Germany
Martin Deasy (Kew Diploma Student)
13 New England salt marshes – plants and productivity
Susan Urpeth (Kew Diploma Student)
20 Victorian gardens
Brent Elliott (RHS Historian)
27 A beginners guide to the orchids of Malaya – hybridisation, urban restoration and cloud forest habitation
Thomas Freeth (Kew Diploma Student)
03 Forensic botany
Peter Gasson (Kew plant anatomist)
10 By elephant, rickshaw and Shanks’ pony – the long road to a Flora of Nepal
Mark Watson (Coordinator of the Major Floras Programme, R.B.G. Edinburgh)
17 The Yorkshire Arboretum – Kew’s partner in the north
John Grimshaw (Director of The Yorkshire Arboretum)
24 What have plants ever done for us?
Timothy Walker (Director of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum)
03 The ancient and diverse fungal-plant symbioses
Bryn Dentinger (Kew Head of Mycology)
14 Flora of Ecuador
Hans-Wilhelm Mackrodt (Kew Diploma Student)
21 Red listing and saving trees from extinction
Sara Oldfield (BGCI Secretary General)
The lectures are occasionally preceded by 'items of interest' from the audience - these can be delightfully random and I keep telling myself that one of these days I should rustle up a five minute talk on bere (pronounced 'bear') which is a type of barley, Hordeum vulgare. It grows in Orkney (one of my favourite places in the world) and may have been introduced there by Vikings in the 9th century and an awful lot has been written about it and its modern use in local food and beer, and emerging markets. While on that economic botany course I learned a fair bit about barley, malting and beer...