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Blooming first - Rare ‘Dragon Leaf’ plant flowers at Wakehurst

A striking Tasmanian plant is flowering at Wakehurst Place, near Haywards Heath, in a first for experts at the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Jo Wenham, Plant Propagation and Conservation Unit manager at Wakehurst, collected seeds from the Richea dracophylla during a seed collecting trip in Tasmania in 2008 with partners from Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and the Tasmanian Botanic Garden and Seed Bank.

The plant, also known as the Pineapple Candleheath or Dragon Leaf Richea, because of its blade shaped leaves, is extremely rare in cultivation in the UK because it is notoriously difficult to propagate.

Now, following work by the plant propagation team at Wakehurst, the plant is displaying a dense spike of white flowers and is on show at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst.

15 April 2014

Two other species from the same family, Richea pandanifolia and Richea milliganii have also been successfully germinated from seed collected on the same trip and will be added Kew’s living plant collections.

Jo said:

'As far as our records show, the Richea dracophylla is a new species in cultivation for Kew and Wakehurst Place and will be added to the wonderful southern hemisphere collections at Wakehurst next season. Whilst flowering this species will be display in the Orange Room at the Millennium Seed Bank.'

She added:

'The seed was collected in a forest, in an area of Tasmania known Snug Tiers, on a hunt to secure wild plants for long term storage in the Millennium Seed Bank and to grow for our living collections at Wakehurst and Kew.

'Because the Richea has complex propagation needs, the success of the first germination and flowering at Wakehurst Place is something to celebrate and it is wonderful to see it flowering.'

The Dragon Leaf Richea is one of more than 100 species collected on the trip to Tasmania in 2008 and 35 have been banked in the Millennium Seed Bank. This species of Richea can grow up to 5 metres tall in its natural habitat. The plant has spirally arranged leaves, blade shaped, tapering to a sharp end and have brown/red leaf like bracts followed by large dense terminal spikes of white flowers.

Further information:

For more information call Jo Wenham or Chris Jenkins on 01444 894067, Kew press office on 020 8332 5607 or email pr@kew.org.

For images of Wakehurst Place and the Millennium Seed Bank http://www.kew.org/press/images/wakehurst/wakehurst_%20index.html
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Wakehurst Place

Wakehurst Place is the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and home to formal gardens, natural woodlands, nature reserves, and a sixteenth century mansion. Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, located at Wakehurst, is the largest wild plant seed collection in the world. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10% of the world’s wild flowering plant species (c. 30,000 species) and aim to conserve 25% by 2020.

Wakehurst is on the B2028 between Ardingly and Turners Hill (Junction 10 off the M23), West Sussex, RH17 6TN and open every day from 10am, except December 24 and 25. For more information ring 01444 894067 or visit www.kew.org.