Friday, 3 February 2012

Floral (and fungal) forces of nature


Oodles of orchids, amazing (blue-dabbed) Anthurium and a cacophony of colour. The Tropical Extravaganza is back at Kew, with a vengeance.


This time it's all about the four Forces of Nature - fire, air, water and earth. Not to be confused with the four humours - blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile - an imbalance of which was once thought to be the cause of ill-health!

Instead our floral extravaganza is celebrating, as our website puts it, "all things bright, beautiful and, of course, tropical". In fact there is more to it than vibrant colours and 6,500 exotic blooms (2,700 of them orchids). The Tropical Extravaganza illustrates, playfully, how plants depend on and cope with these fundamental forces of nature.

And there's more - fungi! The earth element features giant fungal sculptures. Not as big as the real thing 400 million years ago but bigger than you'll see in Royal Mycologic Gardens today.


According to our website, one gram of soil can contain 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) of fungal thread. That's enough thread to stretch the full length of my usual morning walk from one end of Kew Gardens to the other and half way back again, to my office.

But rather than describe the fungal sculptures - or search for homely comparisons for the fire, air and water elements - let me show you a bit more of what it looks like. If these pictures don't attract you into the Princess of Wales Conservatory between 4 February and 4 March, the near zero temperatures outside may.


Images: all taken today while the final touches were being applied. The human next to the Stinkhorn (Phallus indusiatus) is my cousin Roo, visiting from Australia. And thanks Mr_Subjective for correcting my identification of the blue-painted arum!

5 comments:

mr_subjunctive said...

1) Are you sure those are Zantedeschia? 'Cause the leaves and inflorescences both look a lot more like Anthurium to me.

2) Why on earth are they blue? If you're telling me that Kew is injecting plants with dye or spray-painting flowers, I may lose every ounce of respect I ever had for the place.

Tim Entwisle said...

You are quite correct! A mistake in my hurry and I've now corrected Zantedeschia to Anthurium!

And yes they are painted, but all in the pursuit of art in this case. The display is a mix of real flowers (6,500 of them) and sculpture/art. The Anthurium cross over a little I grant you.

Tim

mr_subjunctive said...

*whimper*

It's just so wrong. . . .

Pat said...

Do you know about the alternative explanation for Prototaxites fossils as rolled mats of low-growing plants?

Christopher Taylor describes the idea very well here

I, too, have seen too many paint-sprayed heathers to regard a dyed anthurium as artistic. I am a little old-fashioned but I would still rather see a plastic imitation than a cyborg.

Tim Entwisle said...

No I hadn't seen that alternative interpretation of the Prototaxites as a liverwort. Intriguing!

As for painting flowers. A little Alice in Wonderland I know. I too don't like them in most settings but in the slightly surreal world created inside the glasshouse, with artistic sculptures it works OK for me. But accept it's a matter of taste!