Orchid festival opens at Kew Gardens

Image above: The orchid festival at Kew Gardens, in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

Featuring the orchids of Madagascar

The annual orchid festival has opened at the Princess of Wales Conservatory in Kew Gardens, this year featuring the orchids of Madagascar. The flowers are always gorgeous, that’s a given, but this year the fun creations of lemurs and chameleons out of dried plant matter in amongst the tropical plants and the Malagasy music give it a fun festival atmosphere.

The organisers choose a different country each year to feature, and while the focus is on the island of Madagascar, there are orchids from all over the world on display, divided into temperate and tropical zones.

The association between Madagascar and the botanical gardens at Kew is as old as the gardens themselves. The plants grown mainly in tropical forests, but others can be found in semi-desert regions, near the seashore and in the tundra. Madagascar has both tropical forest and desert areas and as such has many different species.

The models include a particular type of moth which pollinates orchids, which is remarkable for its four foot proboscis. The models were designed by Solene Dequiret, who supervises the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The music accompanying the display is by the Malagasy band the Boriza Brothers.

There is also a mock-up of a botanists’ camp. Madagascar is home to one of the Royal Botanic Gardens’ research site, situated in the country’s capital, Antananarivo. At the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre, a team of 60 Malagasy scientists, students and support staff work with collaborators, local partners, and communities to safeguard rare plant species.

Their work also helps to protect grasslands, to improve livelihoods, and conserve wild yams to increase food security.

‘This crucial outpost plays an important role in enabling us to expand and share our knowledge and build capacity in-country to aid global efforts to protect and restore biodiversity’ say Kew’s scientists.

Display Conservatories Manager Tom Pickering told us orchids grow on every continent except Antarctica and plants range in size from the size of a fingernail to the size of a bus. Most of the orchids they bring in for the display are cultivated in Holland.

The display will be deconstructed on Sunday 3 March and the plants sold to volunteers and staff.

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