A taste of the tropics at Kew

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The Independent Online

With even snowdrops shy of emerging in the garden so far this year, a profusion of orchids, bromeliads and other exotic forest blooms at Kew are bringing a touch of warmth to the winter.

Outside it may be chilly but in the shelter of the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew, forest flowers are able to disport themselves in all their colourful glory.

The Royal Botanical Gardens opens the tropical flower display to the public tomorrow as one of the events to highlight the United Nations International Year of Forests. It features more than 7,000 tropical plants, of which more than 3,000 are orchids. In the picture above, Karen Clayton, a horticulture student, puts the final touches to the orchid display. The Tropical Extravaganza will remain open until 6 March, by which time it is hoped that native flowers will be beginning to show.

Professor Stephen Hopper, Kew's director, said: "The habitat with the greatest number of threatened species is the tropical rainforest, where 63 per cent of threatened species are found. That is why we have chosen to represent the rainforest through this year's Tropical Extravaganza festival – we are asking visitors to come and admire the stunning beauty of the display whilst also considering the dangers that this vital habitat faces, before it is too late."

Forests are home to 80 per cent of the world's land-based life and 1.6 billion people depend on them for their livelihoods, shelter, food and medicine. Logging and agriculture are the two most common factors in the loss of forests.