Wednesday, 2 March 2016

From British winter to Brazilian tropics

Pic of man being beamed up in light from above

How can you go from the bitter cold of a British winter's evening to the Brazilian tropics in seconds? You can't ask Star Trek's Scotty to beam you over to the Brazilian rainforest. Nor can you use a port key or floo powder like Harry Potter.

The answer? The Princess of Wales Conservatory at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew just outside London.

I recently went to Kew Gardens' Orchid Festival Late. One minute I was wrapped up in several layers against a bitterly cold winter evening, the next I was in the humid tropics inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Pic of vegetation inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew
Brazilian rainforest indoors at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

As I entered I could hear drums. A Brazilian band and dancers were making a tour of the internal walkways.

Quite a contrast in temperature.

In pride of place were huge displays that reminded you of Brazilian carnivals. There were also huge columns of orchids. Orchids on archways. Orchids hanging above your head.

As ever, Kew played its educational role well. Various signs gave you more facts about orchids. It is estimated that Brazil is home to 2,500 orchid species. Orchid hunting, new discoveries and conservation efforts are ongoing at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Close-up pic of orchid

New DNA studies by Kew's botanists have resulted in some reclassifications. Some of the Brazilian Oncidium species have turned out to be distant relatives despite apparent similarities.

Inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew
Expert Botanist's area in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew

A Kew expert was on hand on the night to explain pollination and the various parts of an orchid. Poor male bees. It seems that some orchids are the botanical equivalent of con artists. It doesn't help that bees have poor eyesight and can't tell red and yellow apart.

Brazilian dancer under the hanging orchids

Other Brazilian activities on the night included salsa dance classes, cocktails, flower face painting and making colourful carnival hats. It made a pleasant evening out on a chilly winter's evening.

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