26 November 2018

3 trees you need to know about

Meet Kew’s toughest trees: from the bark-regenerating cork oak to the endangered Baobab.

By Ellen McHale

Baobab tree at Kew

The Chilean wine palm

Kew's Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis) has recently started a new life in the Temperate House

This tree is found in a small area in central Chile, and produces a sap that can be used for palm wine and palm syrup. 

We had a specimen that was raised from a seed in 1843, and had grown to reach the Temperate House roof. 

It was widely believed to be the tallest glasshouse plant in the world. It got so large, it had to be removed as it outgrew its spot. 

But that wasn't the end of this tree, as new specimens have been grown from the seed of the same palm. 

Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis)

Cork oak

The cork oak (Quercus suber) has been used for hundreds of years. The Ancient Greeks used it for stoppers in olive and wine jars, while the Romans used it in beehives. 

Today, we use bark for many things, such as in wine bottle corks and musical instruments. 

Each tree can produce enough material for 4,000 wine corks. 

Bark can be stripped from the tree every ten years for harvesting. This is possible because the tree can regenerate its spongy bark and can be stripped on a regular cycle, until it's around 200 years old, without any harm to the tree.

You can see our cork oak trees for yourself in the Mediterranean Garden

The cork oak at Kew
The cork oak at Kew


Our baobab tree (Adasonia za) lives in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. 

It grows so vigorously that yearly pruning is essential to stop it getting out through the roof.

It comes from Madagascar, where several sub-populations of the baobab are threatened with forest clearance. This makes the species vulnerable. 

The trees have adapted well to dry environments. They behave like giant succulents, and up to 80% of their trunks are made of water. 

Baobab trees have a very long life-span. In the wild, there are specimens that are estimated to 1,000 years old or more. 

They have many useul properties. The bark of the tree is soft and fibrous, and can be used to weave rope and cloth. The baobab fruit is also known for it's health benefits, with high levels of Calcium and Vitamin C. 

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Baobab tree at Kew
Baobab tree at Kew Gardens Princess of Wales Conservatory

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