Palm House

Explore this remarkable indoor rainforest and discover tropical plants from some of the most threatened environments in the world.

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Travel to the depths of the rainforest inside the Palm House, where the air is heavy and dense with lush vegetation. 

Wander through and you’ll discover rainforest treasures like the oldest pot plant in the world or the disease-fighting periwinkle.  

Many plants in this collection are endangered in the wild, some even extinct. Others – like the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), or cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao)  – are a source of huge value to societies around the world for the fruit, timber, spices or medicine they produce.  

The Palm House, RBG Kew
View across the Palm House pond, RBG Kew

Rainforest plants cover only 2% of the world’s surface but make up 50% of species – vital to sustaining life on earth. Kew scientists rely on the Palm House collection for research into medicine and sustainable cropping.  

A living laboratory dedicated to the Earth’s tropical regions, the Palm House is a chance to glimpse the magic of the rainforest for yourself.

Explore the Palm House with Sir David Attenborough

An unexpected discovery 

Many of the plants found in rainforests only exist in specific regions – requiring carefully balanced ecosystems to survive. The once-lost café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii) is one example.  Native to Rodrigues, a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it was thought to be extinct for much of the 20th century…  

But in 1979, a 12-year-old-boy insisted a drawing he saw at school matched a plant growing near his house on the island. Samples were sent to Kew, and we confirmed that this young schoolboy had rediscovered the long-lost café marron!  

Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii)
Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii), RBG Kew

A little bit of history  

The Palm House was the first glasshouse built on this scale. It was constructed in 1844 by Richard Turner according to Decimus Burton’s designs.

Architects borrowed techniques from the ship building industry to achieve the ambitious vision – which may explain why the Palm House resembles the upturned hull of a ship. 

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Did you know?

Our glasshouses are open until one hour before the Gardens close.  Please see our opening times  for full details.