The Temperate House is not simply the biggest and oldest glasshouse of its kind; it is integral to Kews heritage. This iconic Grade 1 listed building \- designed by the renowned architect Decimus Burton \- features many fine examples of Victorian metalwork. These include decorative trusses, attractive spiral stairs and some wonderful sculptures.
A unique glasshouse
- The Temperate House was originally built in 1860 and opened in 1863
- The entire construction took nearly 40 years to complete
- The Temperate House covers 4,880m2, twice the size of Kew's Palm House
- The glasshouse sits on a 1.8m high mound of gravel and sand, the spoil from Kew's lake
- It is home to important and critically endangered plants from the Mediterranean, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South and Central America, and the Pacific Islands
However, time had taken its toll on this magnificent building.
A cool and moist atmosphere had caused the plants to climb pillars, and brush against the glass and walls. The old iron and steel work, painted, and over\-painted, was no longer enough to address the deterioration of metal and masonry beneath. In addition, the roof\-windows no longer opened, which threatened the plant life within.
Major restoration project
Major restoration was needed to make sure the building, and its collection of rare and threatened plants, survived and so, in summer 2013, the Temperate House was closed. Before re\-opening in summer 2018, Kew will have repaired the framework and thousands of panes of glass, restored the urns and sculptures, and installed a new heating system. This work will guarantee the optimum growing conditions while opening up the central space to create wonderful vistas through the plants.
Since the doors closed in 2013 for this five\-year restoration project, Kew has:
- Removed, tagged, cleaned and repaired 69,151 individual elements
- Used approximately 180km of scaffolding - about the same length of the M25 motorway
- Protected the Temperate House with a 190m tent structure - about the same length as three Boeing 747s
- Used 5,280 litres of paint - about the same capacity of a large cement mixer lorry
- Painted a total area of 14,080m2 - about the same size of four standard football pitches
Become part of the Temperate House
By restoring this iconic building we are ensuring its conservation, enhancing our botanic heritage, and delivering new cutting-edge displays, events and community activities.
The restored Temperate House will offer visitors, horticulturists and scientists alike, an opportunity to discover more about the worlds rare and threatened plants.
**Supporting world\-class science**
Home for threatened species
The Temperate House was and is still central to the transfer of plants from across the world to Kew. From Asia to South Africa and from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, the plants of the Temperate House are critically important to Kews scientific and educational mission. **Many of them are at risk of extinction.** With over 4,000 plants from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and a range of oceanic islands all nurtured by our expert horticulturists. The Temperate House will display the richness of the plant kingdom across all inhabited continents of the world.
Leading the way
This collection of rare and threatened plants soon to be returned to the Temperate House will lead the way in education, heritage, horticulture and science for future generations. Through new and interactive displays, we will learn the importance of global plant conservation and maintaining biodiversity. Many of the plants you will see have been grown from seed as part of Kews many conservation programmes. The collaboration continues today with Kew undertaking botanical surveys, collecting seeds, and by providing training and support to horticulturists and conservationists.
Become part of the Temperate House
As we face global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and food security, it is critical that we continue to identify, understand and protect the worlds most important species so that no matter what happens they are safeguarded from extinction.
**Discovering the most important plant life**
A living, breathing classroom
With Kew containing around **90% of all known species** of plants, the Temperate House is home to some of our rarest and most important. This collection of rare and threatened plants enables us to make an invaluable contribution. Through research, conservation \- and educating and inspiring the public about the importance of plant and fungal science \- we will raise awareness of how **all lives depend on plants**. Read on, and we'll take you through the geographical regions within the Temperate House.
The Asia section of the Temperate House has most diverse plant life, from the rare _Taxus wallichiana_ a conifer native to the Himalayas \- to Rhododendrons. Despite growing in relatively remote mountainous regions, Rhododendrons are under threat due to habitat destruction. With many of these species providing durable building materials, important food sources and vital drugs, it is critical we protect them. The anti\-cancer drug paclitaxel, for example, was first isolated from the Pacific Yew \(_Taxus brevifolia_\) a plant that is now considered to be endangered. Scientists and horticulturists from Kew continue to work with partners to understand better how to grow a selection of highly threatened plants, including species you will see in the Temperate House. Seed has also been collected from all the species and is securely stored in the Millennium Seed Bank.
The plants you will see inside the Temperate House originate from Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales \- and from the area of Western Australia. Land clearance, drought, fire, disease and invasive plants are all threats to species, such as _Coleus habrophyllus_, _Eucalyptus morrisbyi_ and the magenta lilly pilly tree \(_Myrtaceae_\) of which only 1,200 remain in the wild. This is why conservation of these species outside of their natural habitats is especially important. When planning conservation work it is vital we ensure that as much available genetic diversity is retained as possible, to enable the species to have the greatest ability to adapt to future challenges, including those presented by climate change. Endangered species are now the subject of a national recovery plan in Australia. To support this, seeds are being collected and stored both in Australia and in Kews Millennium Seed Bank as part of the global Millennium Seed Bank Partnership.
In this area of the Temperate House you will be looking at a range of species typically found in warmer, wetter areas typically the northernmost areas of the North Island or drier, coastal areas. Native species such as _Meryta sinclairii_ \(evergreen tree\) is considered vulnerable to extinction, and Kakabeak \- with just a few very small populations remaining on the east coast of the North Island \- is acutely threatened in the wild. One of New Zealands first conservation programmes was set up to protect this species. Plants in the wild were fenced to exclude browsing animals in several areas and new sites were planted out. A conservation nursery grows further plants for re\-introduction to the wild. Kew has an active collaboration with partners in New Zealand to bank seeds of the most threatened native plants. Not all seeds are amenable to storing in a seed bank, so it is vital to protect living specimens.
In oceans across the world are isolated land masses of varying sizes that are home to a diverse and fascinating range of plants. These plants face heightened threats to their survival, due to small populations, invasive plants and climate change. In the Temperate House the Cylindrocline native to Mauritius \- consists of just two species, _Cylindrocline commersonii_, and the _Cylindrocline lorencei_, which is now known to be extinct in the wild in Mauritius. Thankfully, seed was collected from the last two remaining wild plants in 1982 and stored at the Conservatoire Botanique National, Brest, and Kew have worked in collaboration with France since then to conserve this precious genetic resource. Kew has a strong tradition of undertaking conservation work in partnership with other organisations in the island territories.
Central and South America
Areas of the Americas represented in the Temperate House range from Mexico to Nicaragua, Chile, and Argentina. Many plants in these areas are threatened due to increasing populations, land clearance for agriculture and over\-collection for trade. Species such as _Jubaea chilensis_ a Palm tree now confined to a few small areas of Chile and _Jacaranda mimosifolia_. This incredibly ornamental tree is grown in the endangered Piedmont forest in Argentina and Bolivia, where the land is rapidly converted for agricultural purposes. This unique collection is used today as a research resource for botanists and scientists from around the world to identify, understand and protect rare and threatened species.
With the richest temperate flora in the world and some 24,000 species many of which are considered endangered Kew is working with global partners to prioritise delivery of on\-the\-ground conservation. For example, the _Podocarpus henkelii_ you will see in the Temperate House was grown from seed collected as part of the International Conifer Conservation Programme \- which provides safe and secure growing sites for conifers in ex\-situ collections around the world.
Become part of the Temperate House
The Encephalartos woodii - originally discovered in the Ngoye forest in South Africa - is now extinct in the wild. Kews specimen in the Temperate House is one of the three remaining plants in the world, but today there are around 500 specimens (all copies) in cultivation in plant collections around the world.
Unless we can identify, understand and protect these species, they will be lost forever.
**Sowing the seeds of a lifelong passion**
Unique learning opportunity
The Temperate House creates a spectacular venue, offering a unique learning opportunity to see and study some of the worlds rarest and in some cases, extinct in the wild plants up close. It is vitally important for children and adults to experience the role that plants play in our lives. This is in order to understand their economic benefit to the world, to grasp their cultural significance and to see how Kews work can have an impact on climate change and biodiversity.
Nurturing people as well as plants
The Temperate House restoration offers Kew the opportunity to develop sought\-after specialist skills both for young people today and for the future. While ten apprentices learn the highly specialist skills involved in heritage horticulture, six more will focus on construction techniques for restoration. Already, the first four horticultural recruits have helped to transfer the Temperate Houses precious plant collection to their temporary homes. By 2018 when the Temperate House reopens all 16 of the Temperate House apprentices will be well on their way to successful careers.