Discover a new plant or fungi each month on a guided tour with our knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. Go behind the scenes to areas of the Gardens not normally seen by the public. Gain an insight into the different aspects of work that Kew undertakes in areas of science, horticulture and conservation.
During the guided tour you will meet the expert staff who care for the plants and fungi growing in the collections and those who undertake research and conservation work behind the scenes.
You'll come away with a much greater understanding of Kew's important work around the world and how we help with conservation.
Depending on the featured plant or fungi the tour could include a visit to the Jodrell Laboratory, the Herbarium or one our Nurseries. You'll see how Kew's research can be used to help people across the globe with re-forestation and finding alternative crops for farming in remote areas.
- Tours will be mainly outside, but some behind the scenes areas may also be visited
- All locations are wheelchair accessible
- There is a limit of 15 people per tour and places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Please be at the information desk by 11.15am at the latest as the tour will start directly at 11.30am.
May 2017 - Rhododendron
Introduction to Rhododendron
The genus Rhododendron (including Azalea) is well known to gardeners for its stunning displays of colourful flowers. It is in the family Ericaceae, along with other acid soil loving plants such as heathers (Erica and Calluna), blueberries (Vaccinium) and the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo).
Rhododendrons under threat
Approximately one quarter of all Rhododendron species are under threat of extinction in the wild, with one species already extinct (R. retrorsipilum) and another known only in cultivation (R. kanehirae). The centre of diversity of Rhododendron, on the border region between China, India, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, has been historically difficult to access, but Kew (together with Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh) has recently made major Rhododendron collections from Vietnam. This is an important part of the global conservation effort for Rhododendron.
Toxic pollen – friend or foe?
Kew scientists are studying toxic compounds in Rhododendron ponticum and looking at their levels in both native and non-native populations. They have shown that there is a substance in the nectar that is toxic to honey bees but not to bumblebees. However, the levels are lower in the non-native populations than in plants growing in the native range.
Rhododendron at Kew
In the late 1840s, the first Director of Kew, William Jackson Hooker, sent his son Joseph to search for plants in the Himalayas. His adventure brought back 25 new species of Rhododendron, which were then planted in the Rhododendron Dell, an area originally landscaped by Capability Brown.
Joseph Hooker’s collection of herbarium specimens and wood samples are just a small part of Kew’s amazing Herbarium and Economic Botany collections.
The Meet the experts guided walk is included with entry to the Gardens.
The tour for June 2017 will feature legumes (Leguminosae).