27 July 2023

Which plant family matches your personality?

Are you an on-trend orchid or a spicy nightshade? Read on to find out.

By Ellie Wilson

Late summer in the Great Board Walk Borders at Kew

There are more than 600 plant families, each of them unique. We've chosen some of our favourites so you can find your personality match. 

Are you temperamental, generous, tough or eccentric?

Rosa 'Princess Anne', Rose Garden
Rosa 'Princess Anne', Rose Garden, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew
A cherry tree blossoming by the Palm House
A cherry tree blossoming by the Palm House ©RBG Kew

Roses (Rosaceae)

As well as fabulous flowers, the rose family is home to apples, strawberries, cherries, peaches and a long list of other tasty fruits. 

You’re a cottage-core icon with a keen eye for beauty and a love for nurturing your friends and family. 

Your pies are second to none, your garden is stunning, and you’re always ready with plasters, safety pins and snacks from your vintage floral bag.

Head to the Rose Garden at Kew or Wakehurst’s Walled Garden to see our summer roses and spring cherry blossoms. 

Close up of a delicate white orchid flower against a tree trunk
Florida Ghost Orchid © M Danaher
Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) flowers that look like a bee
Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), Hans Hillewaert © Wikimedia Commons, cropped

Orchids (Orchidaceae)

Orchid personalities are trend hounds who love reinventing themselves. 

There’s an orchid for almost every niche, from the leafless ghost orchids of the Florida swamps to orchids that imitate a female bee. 

Your Instagram makes all your friends jealous, but no one minds because you make sure they all look great in your photos. 

You might come across as high maintenance, but like many orchids you’re actually pretty chill: you just don’t like to be smothered.

Meet Kew’s orchid collection in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Red, yellow and green tomatoes growing on green vines in the kitchen garden at kew
‘San Marzano’ tomatoes, Kitchen Garden, Meg Boldison © RBG Kew
Several red chilli pepper fruits
Chilli peppers "Twilight" variety, Andrew McRobb © RBG Kew

Nightshades (Solanaceae)

The party don’t start ‘til you walk in. 

Life would be pretty dull without nightshades, which include tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. But they can also cause allergies – and some of them are spicy, like the chilli, or toxic, like deadly nightshade. 

You’ve got the funniest jokes, the best stories and the sharpest zingers. Sure, you’re a bit chaotic, but it’s worth it to be in your orbit. Everyone’s forgotten how they ever lived without you.

Visit Kew’s Kitchen Garden and Wakehurst’s Children’s Walled Garden in spring and summer to see how tomatoes, peppers and potatoes grow. 

Fluffy koala sitting in a tree with a leaf in its mouth
Eucalypt and Australian Koala by Rennett Stowe from USA, CC BY 2.0, cropped
Dried cloves
Dried cloves, © Ajale via Pixabay

Myrtles (Myrtaceae)

This family includes allspice, cloves and eucalyptus – whose leaves are highly flammable and will poison anything that isn’t a koala. 

You might have a spicy temper, but you’re unfailingly loyal to those who stick with you. 

You thrive under pressure: to you, a crisis is an opportunity to grow, like a eucalyptus sprouting after a bush fire. 

Also, you’re probably Australian.

Find our eucalypts in and around the Children’s Garden at Kew and in Wakehurst’s Coates Wood.

Compositae in the Great Broad Walk Borders
Compositae in the Great Broad Walk Borders, RBG Kew
Close up of white daisy with purple colouring at centre
African daisy at Wakehurst by Jim Holden © RBG Kew 2010

Daisies (Asteraceae)

You never go out of style. Members of Asteraceae have a classic daisy look that makes them easy to spot: think sunflowers, dandelions and echinacea. 

You're a sunny personality with bags of self-confidence. But there’s more to you than meets the eye...

Not many people know that a daisy flower is actually a group of tiny flowers clustered together. You may look like you’ve got it all figured out, but you’ve got hidden depths.

Get a closer look at the daisy family in Kew's Great Broad Walk Borders and Wakehurst’s Bloomers Valley.

A large leafy beech tree standing in a garden
European beech (Fagus sylvatica), Paul Little © RBG Kew
A trio of green common oak leaves in front of a blue sky
Common oak (Quercus robur) leaves, Andrew McRobb © RBG Kew

Oaks, beeches and chestnuts (Fagaceae)

These tall trees give food and shelter to whole communities of wildlife, as well as sheltering young saplings. In return, the tree's flowers are pollinated, seeds are spread far and wide, and pests are kept in check. 

You like to do your bit: you buy second-hand, volunteer in your spare time and help your friends move house. 

People look up to you, but you need your loved ones as much as they need you; they make sure you take breaks to sit back and watch the grass grow.

Kew’s Old Lions are some of our biggest and oldest trees. At Wakehurst, discover Wild Wood, our hidden sculpture trail through ancient oak woodland.

View of the Alpine House from the Grass Garden
Grass Garden, ©RBG Kew
A hand holding 6 different rice species
Wild relatives of rice © L.M.Salazar/Crop Trust

Grasses (Poaceae) 

Tough and resilient, grasses roll with the punches of life. They can make the most of almost any environment, from deserts to wetlands to the Arctic. 

You’re someone who gets on with the job and doesn’t like a fuss. Just like Poaceae family members wheat, maize and rice, your ability to get along with everyone makes you indispensable. 

Your truest admirers love to see you flourishing in a sunny meadow: not just surviving, but thriving.

Head to Kew's Grass Garden and Wakehurst’s American Prairie or Coronation Meadow to watch our grasses thrive.

Leaves and woody stalks of a jade plant against white background
Crassula ovata, Karl Thomas Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, crop
Collection of small trailing succulent plants in an old black boot
Shoe as planter, sempervivum - Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, crop

Stonecrops (Crassulaceae)

You’re a night owl. Most plants ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide and ‘breathe out’ oxygen during the day, as part of photosynthesis. The Crassulaceae family were the first plants observed to only ‘breathe’ at night. 

They live in dry environments, so this means they don’t lose water by opening their pores in the daytime. 

You’re at your best after the sun goes down and everyone is into your quirky aesthetic, like jade plants and houseleeks that decorate living rooms around the world. 

You give the best birthday presents: jade plants are easy to propagate and hand out as gifts, which has earned them the nickname of ‘friendship trees’.

Make friends with Kew's succulent collection in our Rock Garden and Arid Collection.

Venus flytraps with toothed-leaves that have a bright red centre
Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) © Wolfgang Stuppy
Close up of a crane fly caught by a sticky sundew leaf
Sundew ("Crane Fly Capture") by incidencematrix CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

Sundews (Droseraceae)

You’re an inventive genius. To survive in nutrient-poor soil, the Droseraceae family got creative and became carnivorous, catching insects for food. 

From your perspective, you’re just doing what it takes to get by – but like a Venus flytrap, people find you fascinating. Don’t sell yourself short: your imagination means you can thrive where others can’t. 

On the weekends you can be found pottering around, making tasty soup out of vegetable offcuts or turning old flip-flops into furniture.

Get up close with Kew's Carnivorous Plant Collection in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Close up of green sphagnum moss
Sphagnum moss by naturegirl 78, CC BY 2.0.jpg (cropped)
Wide shot of a peat bog, the water reflecting clouds in a blue sky
Michal Klajban, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

Sphagnum moss (Sphagnaceae)

Sphagnaceae members march to the beat of their own drum. The only genus in its family, sphagnum moss can hold amazing amounts of water in its cells: up to 26 times its dry weight. As it spreads, it makes dry environments more habitable for other plants. 

You’re a natural leader with a knack for finding the next big thing before anyone else. But you’re not trying to be a trendsetter: you aren’t really bothered about fitting in. 

You’re also great at keeping secrets: as sphagnum moss builds up over time, it creates peat bogs which lock away carbon from our atmosphere and can also hide grisly discoveries. 

Find out more about moss or visit Wakehurst's Bog Garden.

A plant made up of long dry leaves straggled along the ground, in a scrubby desert at dawn
Welwitschia mirabilis by Nanosanchez, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Straggly green plant with long curly leaves in a sandy desert
Welwitschia mirabilis © Hans Hillewaert via Wikimedia Commons

Welwitschias (Welwitschiaceae)

You like the simple life. 

The only living species in its family, Welwitschia mirabilis is a ‘living fossil’ thought to date back to the Jurassic period. 

It only has two leaves and can live for up to 2000 years, surviving in the harsh Namib Desert by absorbing moisture from sea fog. 

A traditionalist with well-stocked bookshelves, you prefer a long phone call or a letter over sending a text message. You’ve never seen the point of social media: why look at a photo of a plant when you could go outside and see a real one? 

See our collection of unique desert plants at Kew Gardens in the Arid Collection.

Read & watch