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Department of Plant Sciences


Any question about being a postgraduate student can only be answered by going through our postgraduate section.  There is a contact email address there if you can't find what you are looking for.

If you are looking for undergraduate information go through our undergraduate section.  Hopefully, you should find what you need there.  If not, contact us if it's about the Department teaching or go through the University Undergraduate pages.

I'm visiting your Department, could I have internet access?  -  There are a limited number of temporary passes available.  Ask at Reception to see if any are free.

I'm visiting your Department, could I have a parking space?  -  Parking is extremely tight on the site and can only be granted when you can't make alternative arrangements such as the Park and Ride.  There is a car park off Downing Street (in The Grand Arcade) which is quite expensive.

Where are you?  Using your Sat Nav will take you to the pedestrian entrance so if you're driving it's best to follow the instructions in the 'finding the Department' page.

Can anyone attend lectures?  -  All members of the University of Cambridge are entitled to attend the lecture courses so feel free to come.  However, you will not be able to attend the practical parts of the courses, nor to have access to the teaching resources which are reserved for enrolled students and supervisors.  All members of the public are welcome to attend term time seminars at Plant Sciences, details of which can be found on

Can we use your Lecture Theatre?  -  We have been known to let University clubs use our Large Lecture Theatre upon request.  Somebody from the Department needs to be responsible so you will need to find a willing volunteer.

Do you take work experience students?  -  No.

Do you take interns?  -  We do.  Read the section on academic visitors.  You will need to find an academic willing to host you.  Go to the research groups page (or search by theme you are interested in) and find their contact details here.

Do you do consulting work for people/companies?  -  No.

Can we use your logo?  -  No.

If you want to ask someone questions about plants then Sense About Science is an excellent place to go, some of our academics give their time to it.  If you are a school or a pupil then Science and Plants for Schools is an amazing resource.


These are some other questions that Reception is occasionally asked. 

What is the tree in the quad?  -  Sophora (more information required)

Who is in the painting over the door to the library?  -  Sir Francis Darwin (1848-1925).  Painted by Sir William Rothenstein.  More information.  For information on other paintings in the Department see BBC Your Paintings.

What is with the bronze feet in the pavement outside?  -  It's a bronze statue of artist Antony Gormley turned upside down.  More information.

Where is the bust of Charles Darwin?  -  Woolner sculpted Darwin twice, once for a circular plaque and once for a larger bust.  The larger bust is at the Herbarium in the Sainsbury Laboratory.  Christ's College have the sculpted plaque.

Is the ginkgo on the back of the building male or female?  -  The book "Cambridge Gardens by Ronald Gray, Ruth Smith, Ernest Frankl, and T. V. Buttrey" tells us "a unique pair of Ginkgos, male and female, raised in the Botanic Garden and planted against the wall of the Department of Botany in the Downing Site as a symbol of the happy co-operation between professor and Garden in the provision of living plant material.  The pair now cover a large area of the building."  Which they do.

Do you do dendrochronology? - Not really.  Apparently tree corers are very old fashioned.  Disks can be collected using and hand saw and only need to be around 1 cm thick. Collect the disks from the base of the stems (to get a complete age reconstruction) and from multiple trees (needed for cross-dating analysis). Let the disk air dry to avoid them getting moldy. Once in the lab the stem disks are then sanded down to obtain a flat and polished surface and then scanned using a high-resolution flatbed scanner (at least 2400 dpi). The scanned imaged will be used to count the tree rings and to cross-date the samples (i.e. compare the growth trends of different trees to identify potentially missing rings). There are several software that can be used for this purpose such as CDendro.  Update Feb 2018: Geography have a Dedicated Tree Ring Lab.  It says so here, so it must be true!

Can you identify this fungus? - We have nobody here who can do this any more.  Try Lucy Evans of the Melbourn Mushroom Club.

Can you identify something else that's growing in my garden?  -  People here are generally kept very busy and we don't have someone who is volunteered to do this.  In term time academics are teaching and out of term time they are researching.  However, if you are able to leave a sample we will try to get it looked at by someone but it might take some time.

Questions about rice - for rice genetics questions it would be recommended to contact the International Rice Research Institute (

Quaternity group.  We don't have any archives or details of this group, which used to come under the umbrella of Plant Sciences.  You can get help from Geography or here.


We frequently get out of the blue questions such as "is a banana a tree or a fruit". If you have any plant related questions you could see if they've already been answered by the Science and Plants for Schools website or challenge a panel of experts at Sense About Science

Other questions like "your Department did some work on our pond in 1985, do you still have the results" etc.  We probably can't help you.  We had a box full of archive material but... we lost it during a refurbishment.

BOTANY: The scientific study of plants. Many botanists have NO idea how to grow them.
HORTICULTURE: How to grow plants. Has a basis in science, but also involves art.
AGRICULTURE: How to cultivate living things for human use. Hort is a subset of this.
Many thanks to @Botanygeek for the definitions.