Last week after too much looking at a computer screen for work, I decided to head to Kew. It was one of the hottest days of the year so after a sweaty bus ride it seemed a bit strange to head to another, even hotter glass windowed container. I love forests and rainforests, some of the clearest memories I like to travel too in my head are of the few tropical forests I've been lucky enough to visit. Kakamega in Western Kenya and a forest near Kampala called Mabira. I wonder why I'm so drawn to tropical forests (I don't think I'm alone in this), I wonder if it's an instinct thing, like wow so many plants are here, such a happy ecosystem, plants for food, plants for medicine, plants for making things. After all rainforests occupy only about 2% of the worlds land surface, but they contain about 50% of the worlds species.
Being built between 1844 and 1848, the Palm House brings you to that time. "Much of Kew’s work in the 19th century focused on the movement of such plants around the British Empire, which means we too have a legacy that is deeply rooted in colonialism. For hundreds of years, rich countries in the north have exploited natural resources and human knowledge in the south. Colonial botanists would embark on dangerous expeditions in the name of science but were ultimately tasked with finding economically profitable plants." - Alexandre Antonelli
"The plants brought back from faraway places existed long before the venerated plant hunters clapped eyes on them and smuggled them out of their native lands. They had long been foraged, admired, cultivated, eaten and used medicinally by Indigenous peoples. Yet these people and much of their Indigenous knowledge, history and stories are often ignored, forgotten, whitewashed or have gone unrecorded. Or arguably worse, Indigenous knowledge was appropriated, logged as new science, without reference to the true sources." - Sui Searle
"All life, including humanity, depends on plants. They are our essential food, our life-saving medicines and our valuable materials – and in turn they are embedded in all of our histories, cultures and societies." - Richard Deverell