Field Study Centre
Did you know?
- Alerce can grow 50 metres high in its natural habitat, with some trees living for 3,000 years. Many wild trees have been harvested for their durable, straight-grained wood that can be used to build furniture, houses and boats. Over-exploitation has led to the tree’s demise.
- Alerce’s Latin name (Fitzroya cupressoides) honours Robert Fitzroy, who commanded HMS Beagle on its global voyage between 1826 and 1836. Fitzroy described the uses of alerce in his expedition record after encountering the tree in Chile. Also travelling on the Beagle was Charles Darwin, whose observations during the journey influenced his ground-breaking book on evolution On the Origin of Species.
The SEEBOARD Field Study Centre stands at the back of the meadow close to the entrance of the Loder Valley Nature Reserve. The modern wood and glass construction is used to host school parties and students on educational visits. Being close to the wetland, meadow and woodland habitats of the Nature Reserve, it is well placed for all types of ecological studies.
The roof and wall-covering of the centre are made from alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), a conifer from Chile and Argentina. Under international conservation law, trade in this wood is banned because alerce trees are threatened with extinction. In 1992, HM Customs and Excise seized 24 tonnes of the timber that had arrived on British shores. They donated it to Kew, who chose to put it to good use building the centre.