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.
The main zone at the southern end, it represents the world’s warm, arid regions. Here you can find species of agave, aloe and cacti.
The main zone in the northern end, it represents ecosystems such as rainforests and mangrove swamps.
Two zones devoted to carnivorous plants including pitcher plants, Nepenthes, and Venus flytraps, Dionaea muscipula.
A tropical and a temperate zone to reflecting the needs of ferns from these two different regions.
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.
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.
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.