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!