Above: The new rock garden at Kew

HRH THE DUKE OF KENT opened the new American section of the rock garden on 26 April 1994. This culminated a five-year project to improve the area, both aesthetically and through thematic interpretation. The new section was designed to create the diverse habitats, ranging from dry free-draining scree to wetland and aquatic, that are required to cultivate the collection of North American species. It allows drifts of phlox to be displayed close to rare natives, such as Penstemon haydenii, and even a bristle cone pine, Pinus aristata. A cascade waterfall, constructed from 250 tonnes of Sussex sandstone, dominates the section together with the large pool that supplies it with 100,000 litres of water per hour. High moisture levels in the surrounding wetland area are maintained by a lining of low-density reinforced polyethylene geomembrane. In the next few years, other sections of the 112-year old rock garden will be organized geographically to give a theme through which the collections can be interpreted to the public.

Above: The Duke and Kew's Director talking to Mike Sinnott and the Curator, John Simmons (in front)

Contact: Charles Shine (0181-332 5528)

Email: Charles Shine


The handsome bromeliad, Ochagavia elegans, endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, flowered for the first time at Kew in early June. Although very rare in cultivation it is not uncommon on the island where it inhabits rocky places at all altitudes, often forming dense colonies on sunny cliff faces. Kew's plant, now established in a vertical rock crevice in the Alpine House, was germinated from seed by the Micropropagation Unit in 1987. It survived severe frost damage in 1990 when the glasshouse heating failed and has now produced several side shoots. These root easily and material has been distributed to the Conservatoire Botanique National de Brest.

Above: Ochagavia elegans.

A much rarer species endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island also flowered in the Alpine House this summer. Lactoris fernandeziana is confined to temperate rain forest above 500m. It has minute polygamous and monoecious flowers and is of no horticultural merit. However, it is of great scientific importance, being the only member of the Lactoridaceae. The taxonomic affinities of the species are uncertain, but rbcL sequencing at Kew and in the USA supports a proposed relationship with the Aristolochiaceae.

Contact: Tony Hall (Fax 0181-332 5553)

Email: Tony Hall

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