Tropical Nursery

Beyond a pair of wrought iron gates near Kew Palace lies the Tropical Nursery. This is where Kew holds its reserve scientific collections and cultivates plants for use in displays within the Palm House, Temperate House, Waterlily House and Princess of Wales conservatories.

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Photo of plants being watered in the Tropical Nursery

Watering plants in the Tropical Nursery

Did you know?

  • When Kew staff draw up protocols for cultivating rare species, the Tropical Nursery staff are often called upon to propagate those plants and send them back to their place of origin. For example, after populations the café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii) dwindled to just one plant on the Mauritian island of Rodrigues, Kew staff successfully propagated it to ensure the survival of the species. There are now several healthy plants growing in the Tropical Nursery and some have been sent back to Rodrigues.
  • The Tropical Nursery opens its doors once a year to the public.
  • The Tropical nursery is the largest span of glass at Kew.

Behind the scenes

The nursery provides facilities for propagating, establishing and growing on plants from various habitats within the world’s tropical and subtropical regions. There are over 45,000 plants held here at any one time. The plants are produced to support the public conservatories for educational purposes and may by used for scientific purposes by visiting and Kew scientists.

The nursery covers an area of 6,500m2 and is divided into 21 climatic environments that are separately controlled and monitored by a ‘climatic computer’. These zones are collected under four units: Cacti and Succulents, Moist Tropics, Orchids, plus Temperate and Conservation Collections. The large wide-span complex is heated by nine gas-fired boilers, although not all are used together. The nursery is supplied with water filtered by a process called ‘reverse osmosis’ for irrigation and misting. The water is stored in a large tank potentially holding 60,000 gallons. It passes through an ultra-violet filter before being used.

Fifteen permanent staff work in the Tropical Nursery, supported by up to ten students, apprentices, trainees and 28 horticultural volunteers. Daily maintenance of the collections involves watering, feeding, re-potting plants, and monitoring plant health throughout the year. Then there are regular seasonal jobs. The giant waterlilies start their life here, before being planted out in the Waterlily House for the public to see. And Kew’s specimens of titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) rest dormant in the Nursery until they flower and are put on display for visitors to see and smell.

1 comment on 'Tropical Nursery'

Mike Jupp says

03/02/2011 11:54:22 PM | Report abuse

brilliant pics and web site, many thanks

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