Kew Guild

1989, Peter Hollet, Study Tour, North And Southern Florida

Study Tour report of Florida

By Peter Hollett

The study tour to Florida took place in July 1989 and resulted in the combination of two scholarships, my own to northern Florida and the Panhandle and that of Lorraine Perrins to the Everglades National Park and Fairchild Tropical Gardens. The earlier stage of the trip is covered by Lorraine dealing with the Everglades and Fairchild.

Leaving the Everglades behind we undertook the drive north. Any visit to Florida would not be complete without a visit to Disney World and Epcot Centre. It was interesting to note the carpet bedding displays, planting schemes, hard landscape features and topiary of the Disney characters. Also at Epcot they have many projects in operation with regard to plant growth in various media, nutrient balances and conditions that would be experienced in space.

From Orlando we headed further north to the Panhandle but with a stop midway at Manatee Springs. Here it was interesting to see the natural stands of the Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum) and the associated flora. It was very exciting to see the pneumatophores or ‘knees’ they produce to survive these conditions. Other plants of interest were the Manatee grass (Thalassia sp.) and the water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes).

Heading further north-west we came to a site named Blackwater Springs which had been recommended to us as a possible site to observe carnivorous plants. Camping in the State Park here we were able to question the wardens as to locations for the plants. The wardens of the park were very helpful in identifying sites even though these plants are becoming increasingly rare due to drainage of the habitat, development and over collection.

One carnivorous plant which was reasonably common along the road verges was Drosera capillaris. This grew in the areas which are burnt off each year to reduce the height of vegetation so wildlife can be seen by motorists, and so there is little competition from grasses and other flora. Other plants in this area were species of Pinguicula and relatively poor specimens of Sarracenia leucophylla and Sarracenia purpurea growing next to a shaded stream. Further up the road was the most exciting site of the trip for me! We came across a wet, sandy field which at first looked full of white flower, but under closer inspection turned out to be a field full of the white pitchers of Sarracenia leucophylla. These pitchers were beautifully coloured due to their sunny position, brilliant white with bright red veining. Many of the pitcher plants were also in flower. As well as Sarracenias in this area there were vast amounts of Drosera filiformis and Utricularia cordata.

From the Panhandle the drive south was then undertaken passing through Manatee Springs once more and heading down the west side of the Florida Peninsula. The journey was broken by a visit to the Marie Selby Botanic Garden where a former employee of Kew was working and kindly showed us the garden and behind the scenes.

The allotted time in Florida was then running out, with only enough time to collect Marine Algaes for the new display in the Palm House at Kew in Biscayne Bay area before boarding the plane to return to the U.K.


1989, Lorraine Perrins, Study Tour, Florida, USA

Pahaokee to panhandle – a study trip to Florida

By Loraine Perrins

In August 1989, I had the opportunity to visit Florida for three action-packed weeks. A student travel scholarship and a generous donation by the Kew Guild helped me considerably in financing this trip.

This study tour was a combination of two travel scholarships submitted. Mine was concerned with southern Florida, with special regard to the Everglades National Park. Peter Hollett, who accompanied me to Florida, was particularly keen to travel to northern Florida and the Panhandle – the native habitat of an array of carnivorous plants. The final result of the combined interests was a thoroughly fascinating trip and an insight into the scenery and flora that Florida has to offer.

The journey commenced in Miami, spending a few days working at the Fairchild Tropical Gardens. I must state at this point that the people at this garden are some of the friendliest and most welcoming I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and they certainly made our stay at Fairchild a memorable one.

Fairchild is world renowned for its Palm and Cycad collections. and it was interesting to note the growing conditions and requirements that is supplied for these particular groups of plants.

One of our days at Fairchild was spent with Miss Jane Lippincott who is the Plant Conservation and Reintroduction Officer for southern Florida. Jane has the difficult task of rescuing rare and endangered plants from areas which are to be developed. She collects plant material and seed from threatened plants to grow on at Fairchild’s nursery area, to later reintroduce into protected sites.

The day we joined her she was collecting from an area of pineland scrub, soon to be a housing estate. One plant of particular interest here was Euphorbia deltoidia ssp. deltoidia var. adherens which was known to be occurring naturally at only one other site.

Upon leaving Fairchild, we then spent a few days exploring the Everglades National Park of Pahaokee, to the native Indians, which means “River of Grass”.

This area has incredible diversity from tropical hardwood hammocks to pinelands to mangrove swamps, each with their own special uniqueness. One particular plant species which will always spring to mind when hearing the Everglades mentioned is Hymenocallis palmeri, the Alligator Lilly, with its brilliant white flowers proclaiming itself in the jagged limestone terrain. There was plenty of wildlife to see here too, from the native white-tailed deer, to the ever-present alligators. It is distressing to know that even the Everglades, which is recognised for its uniqueness by being designated an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, are still perilously close to destruction, as nearby Miami squanders every available water source from it, and in effect is drying out this delicately balanced environment.

Recent research on how critical the water levels are to the Glades is standing conservationists in good stead for the future battles.

From the Everglades we then travelled further south to the Florida Keys and the John Pennenkamp Coral Reef Reserve. Here we donned snorkels and fins to experience the most fantastic sights I have ever seen. Coral reefs are a wonderment to behold and I thoroughly recommend that everyone should take the opportunity to experience them.

It was along the quays on our homeward journey two weeks later that we collected specimens of marine algae as requested by Kew from the forthcoming marine display.

The remainder of the trip I will leave for my companion Peter Hollett to describe as it deals with our quest for the elusive carnivorous plant and our journey north.

Anyone considering a tour to Florida for whatever the reason I would thoroughly recommend it, and I would like to thank the Kew Guild for assisting me on my trip. However, I do have one word of warning and that is if you plan to visit any natural areas in the south be sure to take plenty of mosquito repellent with you!


1988, Sarah Ledbetter, Student Exchange, Les Cedres, Cote DAzur


(or Heat – Struck Wanderings Along the Coast of Blue)

A Travel Scholarship report by Sarah Leadbetter, third year student

During June and July of last summer, I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks in the South of France in the small town of Villefranche, just east of Nice.

Having developed an interest in Bromeliads (or a “particular passion for pineapples” as was once written of me), I had written to ‘Les Cedres’, a 40 acre private botanic garden owned by Mme. Marnier-Lapostolle – of the Grand Marnier fame, asking if she would allow me to work there. They have the largest collection of Bromeliads, grown outside, in Europe.

‘Les Cedres’ is set on the east side of Villefranche harbour on the headland St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and consequently commands breathtaking views not only of Nice, but also Monaco and Northern Italy.

I worked the mornings only with M. Rene Hebding, the Bromeliad specialist. His section consists of two glasshouses, slatted standing ground and a “roof” of their own thick bamboo canes from which more bromeliads and Stanhopea spp. hung beneath the tree canopy. In all there are approximately 20 glasshouses, including two large tropical and two large landscaped cacti houses set amidst the lush gardens.

During the afternoons I had the opportunity of exploring the rest of the garden and discovering not only the trees swathed in Tillandsias and cacti, but many unusual specimens such as the beautifully scented, pink-flowered tree, Oias cotinifolia, a tree stump covered with the small reddish flowers of Tropaeolum pentaphyllum, the exotic green leguminous flowers of Strongilodon macrobotrys together with it’s fruit (the only botanic garden in the world apparently able to do so) and the giant water-lily Victoria cruziana, planted in the large pond near the house a week before I arrived and so not flowering – it is grown outside each year.

On other afternoons I was able to visit the garden and herbarium of Villa Thuret, Cap d’Antibes, where I found the graceful arching stems of Russelia juncea, and the small cacti garden of Eze Village, perched hundreds of metres above the sapphire blue sea, where during summer temperatures soar over 32 degrees celsius and drop in winter to -10.

At the Jardin Exotique in Monaco, I saw a far larger collection of cacti, succulents, palms and a few bromeliads cascading down the mountainside above ground, and joined a tour of the caverns and “cathedrals” of creamy white stalagmites and stalactites beneath the garden.

Further east I found a superb flowering specimen of Nelumbo nucifera at the Val Rahmeh Botanic Garden, Menton-Garavan, where there were several interesting plants interspersed with rather gaudy and totally out of place bedding!

However, one of the most exciting afternoons was when I walked over the border into Italy to see ‘La Mortola’. As usual it was a scorching day, the sea unbelievably blue and suddenly from the second headland I found myself looking down on the villa ‘La Mortola’, nestling amongst a huge Yucca australis, numerous Eucalyptus spp., Jacaranda acutifolia and the stately Cupressus sempervirens.

Although now somewhat rundown, the gardens, owned by the Hanbury family from 18671960, still display some of their former glory and the University of Genoa, under the auspices of the Italian Government are attempting to restore them.

My trip really was a marvellous experience; I increased my knowledge of Bromeliad cultivation and was given several Tillandsias to bring back to Kew. My thanks are due to Mme. Marnier-Lapostolle, M. Hebding, and the Kew Guild, who, together with a close friend, enabled me to visit the Gardens of the Cote d’Azur.


1988, Marc Long, Study Tour, Morocco

Morocco and the Great Atlas

By Marc Long

The origins and diversity of the Maghreb flora offers many opportunities to the student. The Moroccan flora in particular is amongst the most diverse in the Mediterranean basin after that of Turkey, Greece and Spain. The numbers of species is estimated at 3,750 of which approximately 600 are of endemic origin. One third of these are confined to the High Atlas.

Many factors combine to erode this diversity. The principal one being over grazing by migratory goat herds as well as illegal felling for fuel and burning to gain pasture for animals. The harsh climate affects endemics with a small distribution especially at high altitude. Juniperus thurifera which once girdled the mass of the Atlas with a belt of forest has been almost completely felled and the possibilities of its re-establishment are slim.

In June 1968 a Kew Guild award and money donated by the Alpine Garden Society enabled me to spend a month in Morocco. Much of this time was spent in the High Atlas, a range of rugged mountains and hills extending N.E. by East from the Atlantic seaboard to the southern borders of Algeria forming a barrier between the northern plains and the pre-Sahara.

In the countryside buses are sporadic or non existent so a car was hired for a period of three weeks and together with Dr. Mohammed Rejdali at the Institut Agronornique et Veterinaire Hassan II in Rabat an itinerary was planned to include selected sites of botanic interest at this time of the year. The localities chosen were the following:

1. The Toubkal National Park.
2. The Argan forest to the West of Taroudannt.
3. The Dades and Todra Gorges.
4. Jbel Ayachi.
5. Azrou, Ifrane and environs.

As well as botanising, visits were made to the cities of Fez and Marrakech both preserving in their Medina the appearance to the visitor of a medieval Islamic city. A brief foray was made through the date palm growing regions of Tafilalt to the rolling sand dunes of Merzouga.

The approach road to Asni through the Mouiay Brahim Gorges yielded an abundance of roadside flora. Patches of blue Catananche coerulea, Limonium mouretii were interspersed with Rumex papilo and the metallic Eryngium ilicifolium. Salvia taraxacifolia an endemic was also seen in places. Descending the slopes towards a dry river bed enclosed within stiff hedges of Ononis spinosa and Capparis spinosa, Galium corrudifolium was found in conjunction with Coronilla viminalis.

An overnight stop at the picturesque Youth Hostel at Asni was followed by an early morning departure for Imlil where the car was left under the watchful eye of a ‘Gardien’. Fine Walnut groves surrounding the village gave way to terraced banks enclosing irrigated parcels of land as the mule track wound its way tortuously to the Netler refuge (3,207m) at the foot of Mt. Toubkal. High altitude and exposure to a harsh climate has resulted in vegetation dominated by caespitose shrubs such as Bupleurum spinosum and Vella pseudoeytisus. These sheltered a wide variety of rock garden gems such as Campanula atlantica, the compact Pterocephalus depressus, Eryngium bourgatii and Leucanthemum catananche.

The following day a trek from Oukaimeden to Tachedirrt proved to be one of the highlights of my stay in Morocco. This area is incredibly rich in plant species and fortunately there was no evidence of transhumance leaving the surrounding meadows and slopes to riot in colour. Potentilla nevadensis, Echium flavum and Dianthus gaditanus was found along with Euphorbia pinea and Onopordon accaule. Great drifts of Armeria alliacea and Catananehe caerulea dotted the valley above Tachedirrt. A warm welcome in Tachedirrt included an introduction to every person in the village, an exchange of gifts and later that evening a delicious Couscous washed down with mint tea followed by a sound nights sleep in a Berber house.

Continuing southwards the summit of Tizi-n-Test was botanised yielding Ptilotrichum spinosum together with the red stems and bright green bracts of Euphorbia dasycarpa as well as the pungent Thymus dreatensis in full bloom.

A dizzy descent through a series of sweeping hair pin bends eventually led to the broad river valley of the Oued Sous. Here the land is intensively cultivated, the fertile soil and constant irrigation support large tracts of Citrus groves and other crops. Of these the most interesting is the endemic Aragania spinosa confined to the sub-littoral zone of south west Morocco. A valuable edible oil is extracted from the seed and the wood which was formerly abundant is unrivalled for its hardness and durability. Photographs of both flower and fruit were obtained. As is the case elsewhere in Morocco overgrazing and felling has prevented regeneration leading to the forest becoming sparse and unproductive.

Two days of isolation and uncertainty followed driving on unmetalled roads (Pistes) through the Dades and Todra gorges. Here eroded limestone ridges alternated with spectacular deep gorges enclosed by sheer cliff faces.

The area around Azrou and Ifrane is remarkable, for it is here one can see forests of Cedrus atlantica, showing welcome signs of good husbandry and natural regeneration. it was also exciting to witness the provenance of what is in Europe and N. America a feature in many historic parks and gardens.

Near the Col du Zad frequent sightings of bright purple clumps forced a roadside halt to reveal Cynara hystrix. Another site close to Ifrane sustained Inula montana and small pockets of the attractive Centaurea ineana as well as the tall pale endemic Eryngium moroccanum.

A month passed all too quickly, but as I write this one of my most vivid memories is of a late evening drive through the Skoura oasis, a fresh breeze blowing through the window and the date palms, their arching pinnate leaves borne on long elegant trunks silhouetted against the sky.


1988, Louise Bustard, Study Tour, Arizona USA

Desert days

By Louise Bustard

April and May in the Southwestern states of America is cactus flowering time. It is a time of plenty for all; for the creatures which feed on the vast reservoirs of nectar provided by a cactus flower; and for the flowers which are visited and hopefully pollinated by myriad insects, bees, bats, moths and birds. It is spring and the chill winter is past. Surprisingly, winter in both the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts can be extremely cold. The temperatures regularly drop well below freezing resulting in frequent frosts and occasional snow falls. Even in late May day-time temperatures in the high desert regions can be uncomfortably low as I discovered whilst travelling through the Joshua Tree National Monument in Southern California. As I stood by a Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) trying to photograph it, I felt a little foolish with my blue shorts, blue legs and fingers too cold to press the shutter.

The desert proved to be a land of endless surprises. I had expected to find a bare and barren wilderness but what actually confronted me was a landscape bursting with countless varieties of life forms. As one of the more recent (geologically speaking) climatic environments to appear on Earth, both the flora and fauna now inhabiting desert areas have evolved the ability to endure the extreme nature of the desert. Many of the adaptations to withstand extremes of temperature and intense aridity followed by flash floods are unique and in many cases extremely bizarre. The structure of a cactus with ribs to permit shrinkage in dry periods and swelling during the rains also to create some shade on their neighbours; a waxy cuticle to prevent excessive water loss; spines to create more shade and to form a layer behind which cool air is trapped during the heat of the day and warm air during the cool nights, all these features lead one to believe that mother nature works it all out logically.

I was surprised by the obvious difference between two neighbouring desert states, California and Arizona. In Arizona both the people and their laws actively support the conservation of their desert and their wildlife. Unlike many of their Californian neighbours they do not shun their native plants. The gardens, parks and municipal buildings are generously landscaped using the native flora. Some exotics are used of course, Palms, Jacarandas, Oleandas and various South African and Australian trees line the streets. The laws limiting the use of water in Arizona restricts the use of plants to drought-tolerant species and looks perfectly in harmony with the desert environment.

Each state through which the Colorado River flows is permitted to take a specified amount of its water. Arizona’s forward-looking approach to conservation of water and energy production means that it only removes two thirds of its allotted quota.

California on the other hand takes its full quota and the third which Arizona leaves behind. I found the wasteful use of water in California quite shocking. Here the residents, whilst revelling in the sunshine and clean air (at least, those not living within 50 miles of Los Angeles) of the desert, seem very reluctant to use their native flora and prefer to surround themselves with plants more at home in the rainforest. To maintain this effect of a green and pleasant land garden irrigation systems were kept running for almost the entire day and the streets in many of the suburban areas I visited were literally running with water.

If I had to choose just one highlight from my desert travels, helped by a Kew Guild Award Scheme grant, it must be the four days I spent camping in the Sonoran Desert in northern Mexico. Two marvellous people, desert-lovers and plant growers from Tuscan took me into the rarely visited depths of the desert looking westward towards the Gulf of California and the peninsula of Baja. With a combined bottomless pit of knowledge about the desert and all that exists within it, Chuck Hanson and Meg Quinn taught me to love this extraordinary place and consequently develop a greater understanding of my plants and their needs.

On our final night in Mexico we sat by the camp fire in complete silence until darkness fell. There was a full moon in a sky so full of stars they looked like sequins on a black velvet dress. The canyon in which we were camped occasionally echoed to the sound of an owl or a badger screeching. The moon was the brightest I had ever seen as its light cascaded down upon the desert scene creating a magical effect. In the distance the seas in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortes to the Mexicans), shone like a pool of silver, silhouetted against this were the huge 15ft tall Pachycereus pringlei columnar cacti.

Pachycereus pringlei

Suddenly we heard a noise from above. The night creatures were about. We got up and walked down the canyon, no torches were used, our world was alight with gleaming silver and blue. As we wove our way past the shrubs some of their strange shapes appeared more unworldly than ever. The inflated base and spindly limbs of the elephant bush Bursera microphylla suddenly became a dollop of ice cream with broken wafers stuck in it. The baffling ‘Boojum’ Idria columnaris took on the appearance of a giant carrot ejecting itself from out of the ground. We came to a halt at the base of a huge ‘Cardon’ (Pachycereus pringlei). Its large white flowers (almost two inches across) only open after dark when they emit a sweet odour. As Chuck shone his powerful torch up to the tops of these magnificent giants the answer to why their exquisite flowers only show themselves at night became clear. There, with its head buried deep within a flower was a bat. These extraordinary mammals feed on the nectar offered by the flower. In return they pollinate with their heads which are completely covered in bright yellow pollen from the massive numbers of anthers which have to be penetrated before the nectar can be reached.

That night as I lay in my sleeping bag I reflected on how much I had learned in the desert, that it is a place full of life and not the barren emptiness we often believe it to be. “Perhaps”, I thought, “I won’t try too hard to change peoples’ negative view of the desert, then, with luck it may remain unvisited and unspoilt”. “On the other hand”, I said to myself, “Just think what they’ll be missing”.


1988, Alison Bowles, Study Tour, New Zealand

The land of kiwis and tree ferns

By Alison M. Bowles

On completing the Kew Diploma Course in September 1988 I embarked on a study tour abroad. I was fortunate to have some money from the Kew Guild to help with my expenses while I was in New Zealand. I had decided to travel to New Zealand in order to visit their National Parks and gain a better knowledge of their native flora, especially the ferns. I had contacted Kewite Ian McDowell at Pukekura Park and he very kindly put me in touch with horticultural groups throughout New Zealand. I was therefore able to see much of both North and South Islands.

I arrived in Auckland at the end of January, able to enjoy the end of an antipodean summer. I visited Graham Platt’s Nursery; where he operates an interesting concept in marketing for a retail nursery, as none of the plants are labelled. The idea is that customers have to ask for advice and therefore go away with a plant likely to do well in the position they have described in their garden. This was a good introduction for me to New Zealand as he specialises in natives, paying particular attention to the provenance of his stock plants. He then kindly showed me around the Waitakre Cascade Falls Park, in a range of hills very close to Auckland where many New Zealand natives can be found, including the famous Kauri, Agathis australis which was heavily felled for its strong timber in the nineteenth century. This was also my first chance to see some New Zealand tree ferns in their native habitat, such as Cyathea dealbata and Dicksonia squarrosa.

I travelled from Auckland to Nelson via the Wellington-Picton ferry, watching dolphins as we entered Marlborough Sound. Many people I spoke to throughout the country complained about the gorse which had been introduced from Britain, originally for use as a hedge. It thrived in the southern climate and has now naturalised; I particularly remember the hills around Marlborough Sound being a vivid yellow.

The journey from Picton to Nelson took me across the Richmond Range where I saw Nothofagus woodlands for the first time. In Nelson I stayed with members of the Nelson Fern Society, who were most helpful, taking me to a number of locations to see filmy ferns and also to some local private gardens owned by fern enthusiasts. They were able to supply me with some filmy ferns which I sent to Kew. I also gained my first experience of public speaking when I gave a talk to their Society about Kew Gardens.

I continued through South Island to Dunedin. Travelling by coach I was able to appreciate the countryside, crossing over the Lewis Pass and then descending to the vast and parched Canterbury Plain. I gave a second talk at Dunedin Botanic Garden to their Society which had been modelled on the Kew Mutual Improvement Society. A large proportion of the audience were students who seemed very interested in Kew’s work.

Then on to Te Anau and the beginning of the famous Milford Track, a three day hike in a World Heritage Park, crossing the Mackinnon Pass and eventually descending to Milford Sound. This was a wonderful way to appreciate the vegetation which luxuriates there with an average of six to ten metres of rain a year. We began walking through Nothofagus forest, with many ferns in the understoreys. As we climbed the beeches became smaller until Hoheria was the dominant plant, then we came to the alpine area and found Ranunculus Iyalli, Celmisias, Aciphyllas and low growing Hebes. Descending to the wetter western side of the pass I saw filmy ferns really at home, and wonderful specimens of Leptopteris superba.

I then continued my journey by heading up the West Coast to Greymouth. Numerous Metrosideros spp. in bloom way up in the tree tops added vivid splashes of colour to the roadside. The New Zealand train service has a limited number of routes, but the Trans Alpine Express Service to Christchurch had been recommended to me as it passes through spectacular mountain scenery.

In Christchurch Pamela Gibbons, an ex-Kew student, and her husband put me up for a few days. She had kindly arranged for me to be shown around Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Christchurch Parks and Recreation Department both of which were very informative. The Botanic Garden has a distinct English feel to it from the nature of its plantings. I also contacted another Kewite, John Taylor, and was able to spend an evening with him.

I now had to make my way to Hawera, in the North Island, to give a talk to Hawera Horticultural Society. My hosts in Hawera were members of the Society and had lots of local horticultural contacts, I was therefore shown around many gardens. They are close to New Plymouth and took me to Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust, nestling between the Pouakai and Kaitake Ranges which provides the site with an excellent microclimate. We also visited Pukekura Park where I met Ian McDowell and George Fuller who very kindly showed me around. They have an unusual fernery which had been hollowed out of the volcanic ash so that you walk through a narrow tunnel entrance. The ferns certainly seem to enjoy their surroundings. While in the area I visited Duncan and Davies Nurseries and saw their propagation houses and packing shed.

Then on to Tauranga and my last talk, where I stayed with the Secretary of the Bay of Plenty District of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture. This is a major centre for Kiwi fruit growing so I enjoyed looking around an orchard and a packing plant. They look so rampant, with foliage spreading everywhere.

Then to the East Coast and Napier where I stayed with David Lowe and his family for a few days. They had been suffering a drought so when, on my arrival, it rained they were all very happy. Unfortunately it was wet for much of my stay in Napier. There is a wonderful avenue of Norfolk Pines along the promenade. Despite the damp and rather cold weather making me feel rather at home one look into the gardens and the sight of Tibouchina, Hibiscus and Bougainvilleas all thriving told me definitely this was not England.

I was then able to meet up with Alice de Nys, who had been an international student at Kew while I was on the Course. We were shown around the Otari Open Air Native Plant Museum by the Curator, Mr. Ray Mole. This consists of 200 acres, much of it still native bush, in a cold valley on the outskirts of Wellington. Plants from throughout New Zealand are on display, such as Griselinia lucida and Myosotidium hortensia. His enthusiasm for the New Zealand flora made me feel very sorry to be shortly leaving it behind. I travelled up to Palmerston North with Alice and she showed me around the propagation houses at Massey University where she now works.

I was very fortunate to be able to spend this time in New Zealand where I met many interesting horticulturalists who willingly shared their knowledge of their native flora with me. I am grateful to the Kew Guild for helping to finance this trip.


1987, Sue Bell, Study Of House Plant Production, Denmark

“Something is blooming in the state of Denmark”

by Sue Bell

During the first three weeks of July, 1987 I travelled to Denmark to study their large and successful house plant industry. As well as trying to account for this success, I was hoping to visit the country’s famous castles and gardens, and see something of the capital and countryside. The Hozelock-ASL prize and money kindly donated by the Kew Guild helped considerably in financing the trip.

It made sense to start in the capital, Copenhagen, which is on the island called Zealand and then work back via Funen, to the Jutland Peninsula, and the ferry home. Apart from my time in Copenhagen I stayed in Youth Hostels. Travel was easy, even between the islands as the Danish public transport system is very good. Whilst in North Zealand I made much use of a Copenhagen Card which gives unlimited use on the buses and trains, ideal for exploring.

I was first based at the Copenhagen Botanical Garden, where I stayed with a gardener, Gert Void. Due to a civil service strike the garden was rarely open to the public. This was also sadly the case with all the national museums and palaces during my stay. The garden staff were very friendly and gave me many tips and contacts which proved useful later. Several of the staff spoke English and were familiar with Kew from exchange visits.

The garden is situated on the old city ramparts which gives it a very interesting topography. The rock garden resembles a hill top boulder field, from which one can just view a surprisingly large and natural looking lake. The garden is surrounded by trees and shrubs so the herbaceous areas and glass houses are sheltered. There are large and impressive collections of annuals and Danish native plants. One of the most interesting glass houses is the arctic house which contains many plants from Greenland, Denmark’s largest island.

My stay in Copenhagen coincided with an exhibition of Denmark’s most popular house plants in the city hall, this was to promote the Marguerite as Denmark’s national flower. Needless to say the botanists were less happy with this choice of plant than the commercial growers! Even so, the scale and prestige at the exhibition was a clear example of the enviable status horticulture commands in Denmark and it’s importance in the country.

Most of the pot plants grown in Denmark are exported. This puts the growers close to the capital at some disadvantage as the main export and marketing organisations are based on the island of Funen, the so called “Garden of Denmark”. Even so the growers I did visit near Copenhagen had modern facilities and some felt confident enough to expand and even experiment with new crops.

Many of the marketing organisations are grower co-operatives. these are the GAZAs. The letters stand for Gardener’s Sales Association. GAZA Odense and GAZA Arhus are two of the most important for pot plants. They actively promote and sell the plants in many countries, including the U.K. This means the growers are free to concentrate on what they do best, the growing. I was very fortunate to spend a day visiting the GAZA Odense and surrounding growers with a sales consultant from the GAZA, Kim Evald. The GAZA has its own lorry fleet, modern offices, warehouses and an auction.

When the plants arrive from the growers they are assembled into the orders that the sales consultants have taken previously, and placed on Danish trolleys. The trolleys are then programmed and can travel unassisted on rails through the warehouses to their point of departure, a GAZA lorry bound for the customer. Such is the success of GAZA Odense that growers who are members don’t have to be ultra modern to survive even though many are. I was surprised to visit some very small growers with dilapidated buildings. They are able to make a living by concentrating on growing just one or two crops but to the high standard the GAZAs demand.

The Danish pot plant industry is well supported by an impressive advisory service the D.E.G. My visit to their offices proved very profitable, they were very helpful in arranging grower visits and answering my many questions. Denmark also has Horticultural Research Stations and like their counterparts in the U.K., they are experiencing reduced funding. I managed to visit two one which specialises in pests and diseases at Lyngby and the other at Arslev, The Glass House Crops Research Institute. Research and development is also carried out in the private sector. The breeding station of Daehnfeldt, the Seed Company was most impressive, especially their micropropagation facilities.

It was always refreshing to see some Danish culture as opposed to strictly horticulture. As the song says, Copenhagen is “wonderful!”. The spectacular spires and towers of the city were unexpected and particularly impressive. I was most keen to see the Castle at Helsingor (Elsinore), immortalised by Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It stands overlooking the Sound, a narrow stretch of water between North Zealand and Sweden. I visited in an evening when walking around the ramparts it takes little to imagine the scene of the midnight encounter between Hamlet and the ghost which ends on a note of ominous intent.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Heaven will direct it.”
Act 1 Scene V


1987, Robyn Carter, Alpine Study Tour, Pyrenees

The French Pyrenees

By Robyn Carter

Mountains hold a certain allure for many people. For those with an interest in plants the juxtaposition of differing rock types and microclimates create varying habitats, which together with the effect of altitude give an exciting range of plant life In a relatively short distance.

In June 1987, with the help of a Kew Guild Award, I had the opportunity of spending one month in the Pyrenees; a 435 km barrier of rugged peaks running from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, which guarantees the presence of several endemic species. Taking advantage of the good transport network on the French side of the Pyrenees, the time was split between Gavarnie, 40 km south of Lourdes, and moving progressively eastwards to Lac d’Oo and L’Hospitalet with consequently drier climates.

Gavarnie is in the Pare National des Pyrenees Occidentales and at an altitude of 1,375 m affords immediate access to surrounding mountains. This is further enhanced by the GR 10, the coast to coast high level footpath. This makes the area extremely popular with walkers and climbers who use the refuges on route. Within the Pare are the Maison du Pare, which combine exhibition space with educational facilities. An excellent source of information regarding the fauna and flora of the Pyrenees, they obviously help promote awareness of conservation in an area suffering the pressures of forestry, tourism, agriculture and hydro-electric schemes.

Gavarnie is most famous for its cirque, which is indeed a spectacular site. Daily between 10 a.m.-5 p.m. day trippers arrive by the coach load, to make the short iournev to the cirque by donkey! Fortunately it is easy to lose the crowds.

Alpine meadows here were rich and colourful. A backcloth of yellow, provided primarily by Helianthemum nummularium and Rhinanthus minor was highlighted by the blues of Echium vulgare, Phyteuma orbiculare, Campanula glomerata and Isolated flowers of Iris xiphioides which would later add a significant splash of blue, as flowering had only just begun.

Even the roadsides were rich in flowers and two orchid species were particularly common, Platanthera bifolia and Gymnadenia conopsea. Away from the road, in grassier locations, was Orchis ustulata and more rarely the vanilla scented Nigritella nigra. Small numbers were found near Gavarnie and by the cascade above Lac d’Oo.

Meadows give way to woodland. Beech and subsequently pine reach a height of 2,500 m in the Pyrenees, the highest forests in Europe. Within the dappled shade of the beech woods, which were scarcely coming into leaf, could be found the exquisite Ramonda myconi on moss covered limestone rocks; equally happy in more exposed sites it was, however, less abundant. Beech is replaced by pine, principally the mountain pine Pinus uncinata which is particularly well developed in the eastern Pyrenees, also extending to the Alps. Finally rugged bare rock faces are exposed.

The affect of altitude on flowering time was most significantly witnessed at the end of June when walking beyond the Barrage d’Ossoue towards Petit Vignemale. Having crossed a small glacier at 2,000 m Narcissus pseudonarcissus was found still in flower, along with Soldanella montana, Primula villosa, Daphne laureola var. philippii and Hepatica nobilis. Other sites over 2,000 m sustained such species as Ranunculus pyrenaeus, R. alpestris, Gentiana verna and the attractive, compact Leucanthemopsis alpina and by the Lac des Especieres au de Luhos a large patch of Androsace carnea var. laggeri, distinguishable from A. carnea by its hairless leaves.

The flora of the valleys and lower slopes was of variable merit, primarily due to the continued practice of transhumance leaving the vegetation shortly cropped. This left pockets of interest adjacent to streams and in wet pastures. In the Vallee de pouey Aspe a large patch of Primula farinosa was located in conjunction with Caltha palustris, Silene acaulis, Pinguicula grandiflora and Gentiana acaulis. On drier limestone screes was Hutchinsia alpina, an attractive plant in its indigenous habitat.

In contrast to Gavarnie, L’Hospitalet at 1,428 m and on the eastern border with Andorra was at first sight a barren environment, there being fewer trees. However, quickly walking up one of the valleys a wealth of flowers are to be found. Finally perhaps the most beautiful endemic to the Pyrenees is found, Lilium pyrenaicum. Here also were Gentiana lutea, Veratrum album and Astrantia major familiar in the garden setting. Chamaespartium sagittale, Sedum ochroleucummontanum and Potentilla pyrenaica were among some of the species responsible here for the yellow backcloth covering the hillsides.

Perhaps my strongest memory is the journey by bus to Gavarnie, arriving in the evening. The low light levels accentuated the white panicles of Saxifraga longifolia which seemed to cover the limestone cliffs. Sitting on the bus I knew that during the next four weeks I would find many interesting plants.


1987, Helen Duncan (Tasker), Student Tour Of Israel Botanic Gardens

Student trip to Israel

By Helen Duncan

The whole trip involved an action packed five week stay in Israel from June 2nd to July 7th of last year. My first week was spent at the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens under the care of Michael Avishai, where I spent some time working In the nursery. The Gardens are in a juvenile state of planting so it was exciting to see how things were progressing. I was quite shocked to find myself one morning cleaning bulbs that were being grown in incendiary canisters, “Charming” you might think! But remember Israel is a country with little money to spend on amenity horticulture and the Israelis have had to learn to put waste to good use. This was something which was to amuse me throughout my trip.

After acclimatising to Jerusalem’s dry heat of 30 C and welcoming cool mountain breeze, I then set off south to bear the stifling heat of the Negev Desert to Kibbutz Quetura which lies in the Arava Plain 50 km north of Elait. Here there are some trial grounds (a large plain of desert which has never been cultivated before) where some drought tolerant species are being tried for the first time in such conditions. These were predominantly indigenous fruit and nut crops from Africa, and their growth and adaptability to these desert conditions as well as their drought and salt tolerance is being assessed. Their purpose is for future economic use as less water requiring crops for Israel, and to find those species that will be more adaptable for agroforestry in third world countries. I worked there for over a week with Elain Solomon who is responsible for the upkeep, recording of progress, planting and future development of the site.

From there I continued my trip with James Aronson, the Plant Introduction Officer at the Bengurian University of Negev. I was able to learn and help with some of the present projects being undertaken at Wadie Mashash and The Avdat run-off farms.

The whole trip proved fascinating and I also included visits to Tel Aviv Botanic Gardens, a biblical landscape reserve at Kneot Kedumin, the Galilee area and the Rothschild Flower Garden. I was able to learn much from James Aronson about the ideas, principles and practices behind agroforestry and the help that can be offered to third world countries. The experimental work which is being done out there is quite unique and therefore results will be of much value to those concerned in agroforestry and arid landscaping. I will be keeping a close watch on the progress and hope that the good work continues uninterrupted, despite the unsettling times Israel is going through.

May take this opportunity to thank the Kew Guild for their assistance in financing this trip. Thankyou.


1986, Sarah Rutherford (Fraser), Study Tour Sri Lanka, Palms

Study trip to Sri Lanka – July 1986

By Sarah Rutherford

The main aims of this trip were to study members of the family Palmae, and to help with the verification of the Palm collection at the major Botanic Garden in Sri Lanka: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya. Also to enhance already strong links between R.B.G. Kew and R.B.G. Peradeniya.

My original brief was to spend three weeks working at the Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, collecting herbarium specimens from their Palm Collection to be verified at R.B.G. Kew. After this I had intended to spend one week’s leave visiting other places on the island. However, it turned out that I spent four weeks on attachment to the Botanic Gardens, making several official trips to different parts of the country organised by the Gardens Superintendent, Mr. Sumithraarachchi. These were interspersed between my main work of collecting Palms from the Gardens.

The R.B.G. Peradeniya were established in 1822, and thus have a well established organisation and a long history. They are 147 acres in extent, and have approximately 200 staff to organise and maintain them. The National Herbarium, a colonial style building with over 50,000 herbarium sheets, lies within the Gardens; also a Seed Bank and Micropropagation Unit. The altitude is at about 1 ,550 feet, and the situation is about 10 degrees above the equator. Thus the climate is tropical, but not too hot, with a monsoon season in July and August.

I spent the majority of my time at the gardens in the Palmetum, where most of the Palms are situated; it is a pleasant, shady area which reveals the diversity of Palm form admirably. Mr Sumithraarachchi allowed me three of his staff to help with specimen collection: one of the Curators, with a good botanical knowledge, and two tree climbers who helped with retrieval and preparation of the specimens. Unfortunately, my time at the Gardens coincided with Monsoon Season in Kandy (the nearest town to Peradeniya), so on some days rain prevented any collections being made. However this was not too much of an obstacle. In the rest of the country the weather seemed to be hot and sunny. On one day we collected from 30 different species, which was rather a record! Our usual total was around 15 to 20 per day.

The Herbarium staff helped in preparing the specimens for packing and transportation, which saved much-needed time. Warning: I had to buy eight gallons of meths in order to douse all the specimens for preservation, which I had not budgeted for in my spending money and cost £30 Sterling (refunded by R.B.G. Kew). Moral: Ensure you have enough money for unforeseen items such as this!

I made four separate trips out of the Gardens, each time accompanied by members of the administration staff of the Gardens. It was helpful to be with local people, both to interpret and point out items of interest along the way which otherwise might have been ignored. These trips were much easier than me travelling on my own, as Gardens transport was provided for each one. Travelling on the island one covers relatively short distances, but they seem to take quite a time, especially by public transport. Colombo to Kandy is 70 miles but takes three hours to cover the distance.

My visits consisted of two one-day trips, one two-day, and one five-day.

As the majority of my stay was in one place, I was fortunate to base my accommodation with a Sri Lankan family recommended by Laura Ponsonby. Lloyd and Ranee Perera were kind and helpful and provided excellent accommodation at a reasonable price. I think that they would be willing to look after anyone from Kew visiting Kandy in future.

When out on visits I stayed at hotels and rest houses. These were all found for rne by Gardens staff, who usually managed to get a reduction in price for me even though I was a “tourist”. Everywhere I stayed was always clean and the service good. Meals often consisted of rice and curry in one form or another, which is jolly tasty, but hell if you don’t like curry (I do!).

I used public buses to travel from the Perera’s to the Gardens. These are frequent but rather noisy and rickety. Private buses were the same fare, but usually full to bursting point.

During my stay the trouble centred around Tamils in the north and east of the island rumbled on. I never encountered any trouble personally (apart from seeing the gaping hole blown in the Post Office in Colombo some months before), and it seemed that as long as one avoided travelling to Jaffna, Trincomalee and the surrounding areas, life would remain peaceful.

I felt my trip to be very successful. Most of the Palms of the Gardens were collected, and a set retained at their National Herbarium for future reference. I gathered information and photographs useful for my Taxonomy Project and saw a good variety of the island’s flora and climatic zones. The staff of the Gardens, especially Mr. Sumithraarachchi, were always helpful and keen to ensure that I got the most out of my visit. I saw the diversity of Sri Lanka’s country. It ranges from the cool, moist hill country (temperatures at 0 degrees C are not unknown), to the hot, dry lowlands, with various intermediates. These include 50 square miles of hot, wet primary rainforest with lots of juicy leeches! I also saw some of the most important historic and religious sites on the island, which greatly aided my insight into Sri Lanka as a whole.

Visits made in Sri Lanka – S. Rutherford, July 1986

One Day Visits

Anuradhapura – Ancient city in ruins, centred around Sacred Bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) which is 2,500 years old. Original capital of Sri Lanka.

Gampaha Botanical Garden, Colombo – Small, rural garden, where the first Hevea braziliensis in Asia still survive.

Two Day Visits

Polonaruwa – Ruined palace and Buddhist Temples. Used as Capital after Anuradhapura abandoned.

Sigirya – ruined Palace built on a 600 ft. sheer rock in 11th century AD. Also water gardens from same date being excavated.

Five Day Visits

Horton Plains – Cool grassland and trees; misty, eerie place. Many plants allied to temperate, northern genera. Rhododendron zeylanicum abundant.

Hakgala Botanical Garden – One of highest altitude botanical gardens in the world. First Camellia sinensis in the country tried here and still survive today. Temperate, moist climate.

Diyaluma Falls – Waterfall tumbling down 600 ft. sheer granite.

Ratnapura – Gem capital of Sri Lanka. Most gems found around this town.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve – Reputedly the last remaining Primary Rainforest in Asia. An exciting piece of untouched vegetation, full of leeches, leopards and Rattans (Calamusspp.).

Galle – Galle Fort is an historical town on the southernmost coast which has signs of all its European colonisers still in evidence. The beaches and warm sea are idyllic!