The central Palm House and its adjoining wings are dedicated to Tropical Rainforests where the intense competition for resources, especially light, gives rise to a high, dense canopy and dark forest floor. The plantings are a curious mixture of the familiar and the spectacular.
Some of our most popular houseplants such as Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) derive from the rainforests, and thrive in our homes as they tolerate low light levels. The tropics are also the origin of many familiar economic plants, including coffee (Coffea arabica), bananas (Musa acuminata ssp. acuminata) and the stuffing, kapok, Ceiba pentandra. These can be seen alongside many other crops and ornamentals, including the remarkable jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys.
Plants originating in the tropics have adapted to cope with their natural environment. Bromeliads have adapted to cling to the stems of trees and collect moisture from the atmosphere and nutrients from debris collected in reservoirs. Others, such as the Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa, have developed large, glossy leaves with drip tips to allow excess water to run off them. There is always plenty to interest in these houses, no matter what the time of year.