The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has the world’s largest collection of plants. From expansive vegetation to museums, this place is both a botanist’s and tourist’s delight
10/1/2015 11:32:46 AM
|written By : Basabi Banerjee|
As Americans observed independence day on the fourth of July this year, Singaporeans were also in a celebratory mood. The Botanic Gardens had just been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Experts spoke highly of the Gardens’ “vast botanical values” and “excellent landscape designs”, and UNESCO delegate Maria Theresa P Lazaro lauded its “approach to conservation, such as its digital inventories for both living and archival plants.” Singaporeans were jubilant that their very own Botanic Gardens was now on a heritage list which includes over a 1000 sites, but has only two other gardens on its honour roll: The Orto Botanicodi Padova in Italy and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Little wonder then that Kew topped my list of places to visit when I left for a two-week trip to London on July 8th.
We set out to visit Kew on a perfect summer morning only to discover when we arrived that the half-day we had set aside to savour its myriad attractions was woefully inadequate. However, to make the best use of our time we decided on a short guided tour to get a quick overview of the Gardens. The knowledgeable guide who greeted us at Victoria Plaza stressed that the primary purpose of Kew was to be a global resource for plant and fungal knowledge. Since the first laboratory was built in the gardens in 1876, scientists and researchers have been working in Kew to discover new leads for the treatment of debilitating diseases, to explore the usefulness of certain plants in controlling pests and develop techniques such as DNA finger printing and chemical tests to authenticate plant products.
The gardens combine 250 years of science and ideas with a stunning panorama of sweeping lawns, magnificent architecture and a formidable collection of plants from every corner of the globe. Massive glasshouses present a staggering array of plant species from ten different climatic zones. Extravagant architectural structures lend interest to the glades and dells and the meticulously designed landscape contains many scientifically important plant species in a breathtaking setting.