Princess of Wales Conservatory

Princess of Wales Conservatory

The most complex of Kew's public glasshouses contains ten different environments covering a range of tropical conditions and climatic zones. The conservatory commemorates Princess Augusta, who founded the Gardens. It was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales, in July 1987.

From the wet tropics to arid lands

Growing plants under glass presents many challenges. Each species has particular requirements for humidity and temperature, food and light levels. They have come from complex ecosystems – some depend on fungi in the soil to access nutrients, others on insects for pollination or birds to disperse their seeds. The glasshouses of Kew provide carefully managed growing spaces for plants that have developed in their natural environments for millions of years. 

In this, the most complex conservatory at Kew, there are ten computer-controlled climatic zones under one roof. 

Dry tropics

Main zone in the southern end representing the world’s warm, arid regions. Here you can find species of agave, aloe and cacti. 

Wet tropics

Main zone in the northern end representing ecosystems such as rainforests and mangrove swamps. 

Carnivorous plants

Two zones devoted to carnivorous plants including pitcher plants, Nepenthes, and Venus flytraps, Dionaea muscipula.

Orchids

A hot steamy zone featuring tropical epiphytic or air-rooting varieties with showy flowers and specific adaptations to an aerial environment in the rainforest canopy. And a cooler zone for orchid species with their roots in the earth of tropical mountain regions. 

Ferns

A tropical and a temperate zone to reflecting the needs of ferns from these two different regions.

Titan arum - giant of the plant kingdom

Amorphophallus titanum produces a stench of rotting flesh to attract insects in the tropical rainforest. In 1889, Kew became the first place to experience the flowering of the titan arum outside of its native Sumatra. 

The titan arum in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

A new species of pitcher plant

Recognised as a new species by Kew scientists in 2011, Nepenthes robcantleyi from the Philippines has such large pitchers that it's believed it may trap small mammals and reptiles. 

Nepenthes robcantleyi in the Carnivorous Zone

Did you know?

Sir David Attenborough buried a time capsule in 1985 containing seeds of basic food crops and endangered species. It will be opened in 2085, when many of the plants it contains may be rare or extinct.

Sir David Attenborough in 1985 with the capsule now buried in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

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