The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK opened its annual orchid festival this weekend. And South West London became a riot of color and tropical flora that celebrates Costa Rica’s biodiversity.
The 26th Kew Orchid Show focuses this year on the Central American country, acclaimed for its conservation. Visitors can enjoy more than 5,000 orchids from around the world, but with special attention to those originating in Costa Rica.
Among them is the national flower, a critically endangered orchid called Guarian the skinneri. It has pink-purple petals and is found in humid forests, on the trunks and branches of trees. Also on the banks of granite cliffs at some altitudes.
One month duration
The month-long exhibit, set in tropical temperatures and conditions, also promotes Costa Rica’s famed wildlife.There are handmade sculptures of some animals made with natural materials and nestled among the plants.
“Through the glass house we try to bring as much color as possible to transport people to that kind of world of well-being that is Costa Rica… to make it really beautiful and surprising,” the Kew florist and volunteer Henck Rolling said.
The Dutchman, who in keeping with the orchid theme dyed his hair and beard bright colors and donned an orange garland, said the team had spent much of the last two years thinking about the festival. That was suspended due to the pandemic.
Centered in the wonders of Costa Rica
Several individual displays of different types of orchids were placed in the vast and misty Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew. They are interspersed with water features, ferns, monsteras and other green elements.
The colorful array of plants began arriving in January and took weeks to assemble by hand for dozens of volunteers and staff, said Alberto Trinco, the conservatory’s acting supervisor.
“It’s one of the largest families of plants, and they have an incredible variety of shapes, colors and other adaptations and co-evolution with their pollinators, which is mind-boggling at times,” he added.
A section of the exhibition delves into orchids, explaining everything from their family tree and anatomy to their use for celebrations in Costa Rica.Trinco pointed out that the organizers chose the country, which is home to more than 1,600 species of orchids, to “celebrate its biodiversity, its conservation effort and its culture.”
The Central American nation occupies only 0.03% of the planet but is home to 6% of the world’s flora and fauna species. And, in addition, it has been praised for its management of the natural environment.
Last year, Costa Rica was one of the inaugural winners of the UN-backed Earth shot Prize. This in recognition of their efforts to address environmental degradation and promote sustainability.
Alex Munro, a Kew botanist who specializes in discovering new plant species in the tropics, said he and his colleagues had worked with the Costa Rican ambassador in London.This to help inform some of the scientific data behind the exhibits.”In Costa Rica there are many species that are not found anywhere else,” he said.Other countries that have already been the subject of the annual sample are Indonesia, India and Colombia.