There’s a story that sums up how things work at Kew’s tropical nursery, and it involves David Attenborough, the RAF and a giant tortoise.
In the Eighties, the Café marron plant was thought to be extinct. But a schoolboy on the island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, took a piece of it and showed it to his teacher. Somewhat miraculously, she recognised it, and contact was made with the horticulturalists at Kew. A specimen was passed from RAF pilot to RAF pilot, eventually winding up in the labyrinthine collection of glasshouses that is the Tropical Nursery. After three decades, one of the staff had finally succeeded in encouraging the plant to seed. When it germinated, however, it didn’t look anything like the specimen that had made its way across the ocean. Staff wondered what they had done wrong…[READ MORE]