Palm Day at Kew

(page 4)

A personal treat for me was seeing two varieties of Cocos nucifera - the Coconut Palm, probably my favourite palm for its beauty and all that it represents to man in that favoured band encircling the globe, known as the tropics. I had often read that it was impossible to grow coconut palms indoors even under the most perfect of conditions, and didn't really expect to find any at Kew. But there they were. Dr Dransfield's expert opinion was that only the height of the greenhouse would inhibit the healthy development (and presumably, fruiting) of Cocos nucifera when the proper conditions are met. Perhaps one day they'll be harvesting coconuts in the Palm House.

As an aside, and speaking of coconuts, Kew had a nice specimen of the mystical double coconut, Lodoicea maldivica. Unfortunately, the electric warming cables that were heating the bed in which it was growing suffered a thermostat malfunction, and the poor thing was cooked alive. David took the opportunity during his earlier talk to ask if any Palm Society member visiting the Seychelles could bring back a double coconut to replace it. Both Kew and David would be most grateful and promise to take good care of the donation.

The reconstruction of the Palm House included a marine exhibit located underground below the central transept. Since it is so much cooler than the glasshouse above, many visitors lingered there to talk. But if you thought it was hot at ground level, all you had to do was ascend the intricate wrought iron spiral staircase up to the catwalk that encircles the main area. The view was breath taking, and so were the heat and humidity - definitely Amazonian! When you returned to ground level, it actually felt cool, and once outdoors, the lovely 22c London day seemed almost bracing, further proof that everything is relative.

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