18 March 2013

Kew Gardens

I am writing a somewhat different post to the norm today. Last week, myself and the rest of the RSPB's Phoenix Forum members were invited to hold our latest meeting in Kew Gardens.

The Royal Botanical Gardens, to give them their full name, was first created in 1759, and was later bought by King George 3rd to use the Dutch House there as a nursery for his children. Kew Gardens became famed for it's large collection of exotic plants in the Victorian era, and would later become known as the location for the mapping of plant DNA into an accurate family tree for a huge number of species. It is also utterly gorgeous, both within the grounds and inside the impressive glass houses.

We were treated to a behind the scenes tour of one of the conservatories holding orchids and cacti, which was fascinating.There was such a huge array of species from around the globe, including some ferocious carnivorous plants, like the Sundew plant that was so sticky that when you touched it, you had to put considerable effort into pulling your finger away. A fly would have no chance!






 The most impressive plants were easily the group of Titan Arum plants, also known as carrion flowers due to the smell of rotting flesh that they emit when flowering. Luckily, when we went, all the plants were safely in leaf or berry form. The plants were huge -they can reach over 3m in height -and had some pretty unusual traits.  Despite it's size, the plant that you see above is just one single leaf structure. It gradually stores energy from photosynthesis -energy from the sun -in a huge tuber. Each year it dies back, to produce either a new leaf or a group of berries. It can take ten years worth of storing energy before the plant is able to produce it's famously smelly flower. Frankly though, I'm not sure that I would go near a Titan Arum fully flowered -much to much like Day of the Triffids for my liking!!

In all, it was a really interesting day, and for a first visit to Kew, I was impressed. I was also pretty surprised to spot lots of parakeets; as a non-Londoner, I had forgotten that lots had escaped into the South East!!
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