Conservation in Action (2)
Explore Kew Gardens - Virtual Tour
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Other examples in the Palm House are the banana plant, which although tree-like in proportions, is actually a giant herb and the jackfruit which has a compound fruit measuring up to 50 cm in diameter. It was originally introduced throughout the tropical regions as food primarily for the slaves.
There are also some examples of seriously endangered species in the Palm House, such as the spectacular coco-de-mer or double coconut palm, which was believed to emanate from the bottom of the sea. It is, in fact found in the Seychelles but is highly prized by tourists for its enormous fruits which break when the nuts ripen allowing the seeds, each weighing up the 22 kilograms, to fall to the ground.
One of the saddest stories at Kew concerns the Ramosmania rodriguesii, of which only one plant exists in the wild and the one grown here. Due to incompatibility of the living examples the species is likely to die out.
A more encouraging story is of the Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus, which researchers at Kew have recently discovered contains two alkaloids useful in treating leukaemia and Hodgkin's Disease.