The Tropical House and The Hub

Built in 1986 and opened in 1987, the Tropical House structure is designed to reflect the curvilinear conservatories of the Victorian era.

Waterfall Hot HouseVentnor Botanic Garden

Tropical House

Over 15 years the polycarbonate panels failed, cutting light transmission to the plant collection housed inside. So during the summer of 2002 it was decided to completely re-landscape and replant. 

A bold and contemporary theme was decided upon combining many environmental issues and portraying a story of nature’s eventual triumph over industrial resource extraction – prescient given what we know today.

After passing the interpretation walls in The Hub, visitors enter the greenhouse through a derelict mineshaft that opens up to humid, tropical heat and they come face to face with a waterfall cascading from overhead.

Think Indiana Jones. Plants are growing, snaking up and around rusting abandoned industrial kit, in the high humidity produced by the waterfall.

Giant LilyVentnor Botanic Garden

Leaf shapes are different in the Tropical House. Many are water drippers or drip tipped leaves designed to shed water. The underside of some leaves are red to make most use of what little light they can scavenge on the ground.

Red underneath a leaf catches the blue light reflecting off the forest floor and facilitates photosynthesis in an environment where few plants can survive.

Lily Pad UnderwaterVentnor Botanic Garden

Further along, a pond containing twenty-two tonnes of 28°C water hosts the Victoria amazonica in summer months. It is an annual plant grown every year from seed.

Its prodigious growth rate takes it from a pea-sized seed to a plant nearly three meters in diameter with leaves able to bear the weight of a child in four months. It has evolved so that its flowering cycle starts and finishes during the period when the Amazon is in flood.

Giant LilyVentnor Botanic Garden

Each individual flower only opens twice. On the first night the flower is white in order to attract scarab beetle pollinators. The beetles are attracted to the whiteness of the petals, the strong pineapple scent the flower produces and the internal warmth of flower.

At this stage the flower is a receptive female. Overnight, the flower closes and traps the beetle inside. The flower then changes its sex, and releases pollen onto the imprisoned beetle. On the second night the flower opens again, but this time it is pink in colour.

The beetle is freed from the flower and moves onto another plant, again attracted by the white flower and strong scent. Pollination is complete and the lifecycle of the water lily starts again.

Go beyond the garden

See the natural Amazon for yourself

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