7 surprising things about the Princess of Wales Conservatory

Princess Diana opened the conservatory in 1987. It is the most complex glasshouse at Kew with 10 computer-controlled climate zones.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Princess of Wales Conservatory: Kew’s most complex glasshouse by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The glasshouse is enormous. It spans 4,500 square metres. 10 computer-controlled climatic zones adjust the heat, ventilation and humidity. We scientifically recreate cool deserts, tropical rainforests and a few other environments here and study them carefully.

 

Giant waterlily in the Princess of Wales Conservatory by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Our conservatory hosts a variety of plants. One of the biggest is the giant waterlily (Victoria amazonica) whose leaves can reach a diameter of 3 metres. Beetles pollinate the flowers in the wild. At Kew, we hand-pollinate the flowers each summer. 

Carnivorous plants in the Princess of Wales Conservatory by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Part of our job is to understand biodiversity better. The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a feisty, flesh-eating plant with leaves like teeth. It traps and eats unsuspecting insects and spiders. 
This fascinating plant is listed as vulnerable in the wild by IUCN.

Princess of Wales Conservatory by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is native to Sumatra. It attracts pollinators with a rotting flesh smell. Our scientists believe that sulphur-containing compounds cause that stink. It is endangered in the wild and unlocking secrets about this unique plant is crucial.

Lizards who call the Princess of Wales Conservatory home by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Our conservatory is home to a few animals too. Lizards can be spotted here. Their job is to help our horticulturists by eating cockroaches and other unwanted bugs. We also feed them morio worms and mineral powders.

Fish in the Princess of Wales Conservatory by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Some aquatic species can also be spotted in the tanks and pond. The oldest species we have here is a redtail catfish. The piranha though usually attracts a lot of attention. 

Princess of Wales Conservatory and a small piece of history by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Time capsule

In 1985, Sir David Attenborough buried a time capsule in the foundation of the building. It contains seeds of important food crops and several endangered species. We plan to open it in 2085, when many of the plants it contains may be rare or extinct.

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