Sir David Attenborough has called on the Government to support Kew Gardens and the crucial role it plays in world conservation and the study of plants.

His comments come as Kew Gardens announced it faced a £5m shortfall which would see 125 jobs lost across Kew and Wakehurst Place, Sussex, in the next year.

Sir David Attenborough said work at Kew Gardens was of crucial importance to the world and should be supported by the Government.

He said: “Kew Gardens has an absolutely crucial role in looking after out botanical heritage and our botanical future.

“The important thing to remember is that it is the premiere botanical gardens in the world scientifically.

“People who think it is just a place to go to look at pretty flowers and flower beds are mistaking the importance of Kew Gardens.”

He praised the seed bank, which saves the seeds of global plant life faced with the threat of extinction.

He said: “The seed bank is of world importance and it should be supported by the Government like a proper institution or university and the continuing idea that Kew Gardens is merely a playground and that you just put up the prices to look after it is a misguided assessment of the value of Kew.

“The Government and the scientific departments should recognise that and support it properly.”

In 1983, when the National Heritage Act came into force, 90 per cent of Kew’s funding came from the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

This financial year has seen the funding drop to below 40 per cent.

Director of Kew Gardens Richard Deverell said the executive board was working hard to maintain Kew Gardens for visitors as well build on its status as a world leader in horticulture in the face of funding cuts.

He said Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, which owns two sites, faced a challenging time.

Mr Deverell, who was appointed as director in September 2012, said: “This is a global institution. It is very important and we need to protect it.

“Clearly we are going to do all we can to protect expertise where it is absolutely crucial to Kew’s success and that is what we are currently working through and we are trying to protect those teams.”

Daniel Slack, a graduate of the Kew diploma in horticulture and owner of business the Kew Gardener, raised concerns over the cuts to staff.

He said: “Things need to change at the place for sure, but eliminating 125 superstars who make the place the greatest centre for plants on Earth is not one of the changes required.

“We need many more of them, not less.”

Mr Deverell said his aim for Kew Gardens, which attracted 1.3m visitors last year, was to bring 2m people through its doors by 2020.