Kew Gardens and the Rainforest

I love plants.  I never use to love plants.  I remember being in Biology 11 wondering why we had to study plants when we could study animals instead.  I mean – animals are way more interesting, right?

And then I got to University and started to learn about plants and the relationships between plants, and animals, and us.  In fact, plants hold together ALL ecosystems.  They are the source of habitat, and food, and oxygen, and life.  And the more I learned, the more I loved.

Inside the Palm House

London is home to Kew Gardens – or the Royal Botanical Gardens.  The property itself it huge, thought of course being early spring, not everything is in bloom yet.  However, it is home to multiple greenhouses, holding rain forests, desserts, orchids, cacti, carnivorous plants, and seed banks with millions of plants.  So cold and wind aside (as is the way in London), there was lots to see.

Finds in the Palm House, and group posing across the pond from the Palm House.
Making music with rainforest instruments, and wearing rainforest hats (or in Janey’s case – wearing a food cover as a hat).  Also, flowers in front of the Palm House.

We started out time at Kew Gardens with a 90 minute Rainforest workshop.  We looked at the rainforest, the role in plays in the world, the food, music, and items that can be sustainably created from it, and why it is important to protect it.  We started in a classroom, complete with rainforest musical instruments, and then moved to the indoor rainforest.  We had the chance to eat different products of the rain forest.  When the workshop started our leader had a problem understanding our students answers because she was struggling to adjust to our “accent.”  This was the first time many of our students realized that we have accents!  I didn’t realize we could be that hard to understand.

While learning more about the rainforest we learned that there are items in the rainforest that are used in up to 85% of chemotherapy treatments for Leukemia.  The rainforest are home to an incredible number of foods and medicines.  They house 45% of all animals.  Vanilla, rubber, bananas, papayas and more are all found in rainforest.  They hold together the land and prevent flooding, and they are home to many tribes who have learned to protect and live.  We learned that papayas can help with back pain, and rubber trees are tapped to create latex.  It was informative and interesting – and as close as we could get to a tropical rainforest in the heart of London.

Walking through the Palm house with our guide

After we finished with the rainforest tour we had time to explore the property.  I started with Princess of Wales Conservatory – an indoor home to various rainforests and desert ecosystems.  I was particularly drawn to the orchid room (how did I not know how gorgeous orchids are?) and the carnivorous plants (besides the typical venus flytrap).  The Catci were gorgeous (though, of course, don’t touch), and the colours brilliant at every turn.  So many beautiful shades of green.  I love green.

Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Carnivorous Plants Room
Many Plants and Catci in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
Beautiful flowers in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

I ended my brief time here at the Xstrata Treetop Walkway –  120 stairs up in the canopy of the trees.  Except the trees were still bare from winter – just beginning to show signs of spring.  Mr. Becker was not a big fan of the heights and rickety walk ways, but I closed my eye and imagined what it would be like 6 weeks from now – green and filled with the songs of the local birds (not just the angry geese who left Shelby and Janey fleeing in fear).

Xstrata Treetop Walkway, and the insides of a tree trunk

I believe Kew Gardens would be a beautiful location to spend a sunny afternoon wandering, picnicking, and enjoying a good book.  The immense grounds needed more time than we had and a little more summer and we could have made a whole day out of it.  The waterlilies were not yet in season, and I missed the Japanese Pagoda.  I didn’t have time to get to the bluebells, azaleas, magnolias or Rhododendrons, because they were too far away.  Kew Palace and the Evolution Gardens were closed at the time, but are on my list for a future visit.  We only scratched the surface of the 326 acres the Kew Gardens had to offer (for an idea of how immense, see map here).  But, while I didn’t witness it myself, I have it on good authority that our students fully investigated the children’s playground.  What can I say – who doesn’t love a good playground?

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