A few weeks ago I visited the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew located in Richmond, south-west London. Despite the cold weather, the trek from my house to Kew on that Saturday was completely worth it. As a biologist and general enthusiast for science communication, Kew Gardens has always been a must-see and I was extremely impressed with how science was presented at Kew.
I visited the gardens with my sister, an artist, who was amazed at the variety of plants from the different continents. Like me, my sister was also fond of Palm House, although she would love to see Temperate House in the spring.
As mentioned above, my favourite building in the botanical gardens was Palm House. Located near the Victoria Gate entrance, Palm House looks like a fairly ordinary greenhouse from the outside. However, once you step inside, you are transported into a tropical rainforest. The contrast between the cold outside and the humid interior of Palm House meant that the warmth inside was a welcome relief from frozen fingers and runny noses. The indoor rainforest was breathtakingly beautiful, with species from many different parts of the world. From Giant Bamboo, Coconut, and Ylang-ylang to the singing birds, I could’ve honestly spent hours in Palm House.
Another place in Kew that I particularly enjoyed was The Princess of Wales Conservatory, which is also close to the Victoria gate entrance. This part of the gardens contained a lot of organisms from the desert and the tropics. Basically, a lot of cacti and aloe plants, which were amazing to look at, and surprising to see a lot of similar plants across the equator. I would suggest going into the cooler areas of the conservatory to have a look at the carnivorous plants!
One of the main attractions at Kew Gardens is Temperate House. Reopened in 2018, Temperate House is home many species that strive in temperate conditions, which includes plants that are at risk due to climate change in their habitats. I have heard that Temperate House is best visited in the Spring when many of the plants are flowering, but it was still as impressive in the winter. Particularly the glasshouse is very aesthetically pleasing and provided many great photos!
Lastly, I must talk about the gardens itself. Spanning over 300 acres, everything from the trees to the peacocks, the gardens are what make Kew Gardens so spectacular. After over 4 hours at Kew, we had to leave, but another visit is definitely on the cards. Whether you’re a biologist or not, an important and integral part of the work done by Kew is their research into plant diversity and conservation. They have been responsible for the mapping of many different species as well as looking at how best to ensure we can maintain biodiversity as the climate changes. If you’re looking for a nice day out with plant species from all over the world, or you just want to see the plants you study for yourself, I would highly recommend giving Kew Gardens a visit.