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Meet the experts guided tour

Meet Kew's horticultural and science staff and find out about their work behind the scenes. February tours will focus on carnivorous plants. Tuesday 5, 12, 19 and 26 February 2019 at 11.30am.

Event details

Tuesday 5, 12, 19 and 26 February 2019. Tour lasts about 90 minutes.
Venue: 

Meet at the Information desk (by Victoria Plaza café) at 11.15am. 

Price: 

Included with entry to the Gardens.
Reserve your spot at any entry gate from 10am on the day
Save on the price of your Gardens ticket when you book online


Tour overview

During the guided tour you'll meet Kew's knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff and visit areas of the Gardens not normally seen by the public. You'll gain an insight into different aspects of work that Kew undertakes in areas of science, horticulture and conservation.

  • Tours will be mainly outside, but you may be taken to different areas behind the scenes at Kew.
  • All locations are wheelchair accessible.
  • Maximum of 15 people per tour.

Get your tour ticket from any entry gate from 10am on the day of the tour.


Nepenthes in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

What are carnivorous plants?

Carnivorous plants are adapted to attract, capture and digest a variety of animals - from insects to amphibians, and even small mammals. 

It's an extraordinary example of 100 million years of evolution. Plants that are not closely related have evolved similar features, so that they can survive in nutrient deficient environments. 

    We have a large collection of carnivorous plants at Kew - mainly growing in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, but we also grow  them behind the scenes in the Tropical Nursery. 

    Kew scientists have discovered and named many carnivorous plant species, and they also investigate how these plants trap and digest animals. 


    How do they catch prey?

    Carnivorous plants often grow in bogs and moist environments with acidic soils that are deficient in nutrients like nitrogen. 

    They've developed some clever mechanisms to catch prey so they can get the nutrients they need: 

    • Pitchers are an adaptation that digest prey with enzymes or bacteria. Most pitchers have a slippery surface inside, meaning the unlucky insects lose their footing and fall in, sometimes helped by narcotic drugs secreted by glands on the rim.
    • Snap traps capture unsuspecting prey. Once a trigger hair is touched, a fast-acting electrochemical process is set in motion that makes the leaf trap snap close. Over the next few hours, the trap closes more firmly on the prey and releases fluid to digest the unlucky bug. 
    • Sticky paper is where sticky substances on the leaves catch insects and curl inwards to digest them.

    Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap) at Kew Gardens

    Threats to carnivorous plants

    There are many threats to carnivorous plants across the world. These include habitat loss caused by agriculture, pollution, habitat changes and wild plant collection. 

    Only 17.5% of carnivorous plants have been evaluated to determine their extinction threat. Twenty-nine of these species are listed as endangered and 41 are considered vulnerable. 

    It's important that we protect carnivorous plants, as they have features that benefit humans and ecosystems. For example, some bladdworts (Utricularia) consume the larval stages of human schistosome (snail fever) and malaria carriers such as mosquitoes. Consumption of flies and midges also helps to balance ecosystems.