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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

London’s Iconic Kew Gardens Take on Colombian Flair with New Orchids Display

LONDON – On the other – much chillier – side of the pond, London’s most iconic botanic garden is set to recreate the essence of far-flung Colombia by hosting a new display focusing on the South American country’s exuberant and colorful varieties of orchids.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory, one of the greenhouses in the famed Kew Royal Botanic Gardens located on the outskirts of the British capital, will introduce visitors to some of the floral marvels hailing from one of the world’s most biodiverse nations.

“This year, we are celebrating Colombia through a spectacular ensemble of orchid-laden displays along a curated route,” the institution said on its website.

According to the organizers, there are 4,270 different species of orchids in the Andean country, which also contains a breathtaking assortment of fauna.

“Our flagship display is a carnival of animals, depicting a toucan in flight, a hanging sloth and a swimming turtle,” Kew added.

Mauricio Diazgranados, one of the exhibit’s curators, told EFE that the display “celebrates the colors of Colombia,” a country whose biodiversity is currently under threat due to the ongoing deforestation ravaging its rich ecosystems.

Diazganadas also lamented the lack of sustainable business development when it comes to Colombian orchids, as these alluring flowers are mostly distributed through illegal channels.

The expert explained that this contraband was very difficult to fight against as it usually comes second on the list of the government’s priorities behind the trafficking of narcotics such as cocaine.

He added that Kew Gardens sought to raise awareness among rural Colombians about the promising economic opportunities offered by the cultivation, propagation and commercialization of native species while at the same time protecting local biodiversity.

At a distance of more than 8,500 kilometers (5,282 miles), the frosty and bleak capital of the United Kingdom stands in sharp contrast to the vast and lush tropical Colombian jungles where many of these orchids originated, but over a year of preparations and a month of physical set-up work has allowed the Princess of Wales greenhouse to become a miniature showcase for the vibrant hues of the Latin American country’s spectacular flora, essentially teleporting visitors across the Atlantic.

Diazgranados said that the dazzling diversity of Colombian orchids derived from their evolutionary history, as they maximized their pollination strategies to adapt to surroundings as varied as sea-level humid areas and the towering peaks of the Andes mountain range, many of which surpass 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) in height.

Red, yellow, green, orange, blue, violet and a long etcetera of colors dot the greenhouse; and although all orchids are bewitching, there is one that is favored by most Colombians: the elegant “Cattleya trianae” (also known as “Flor de Mayo,” or “May flower”) the country’s national flower since 1936, which sports a diameter of more than 10 centimeters (4 inches) and possesses lilac, yellow and purple shades.

The display “Orchids: Celebrate the color of Colombia” opens its doors on Saturday and is set to run until March 10; the price of entry is included when buying tickets to visit Kew Gardens.


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