Kew Gardens: The Largest Collection of Living Plants on Earth

The sprawling Kew Gardens of southwest London contain the world’s largest collection of living plants that attract about 1.35 million visitors per year, making the gardens one of England’s most visited tourist destinations. The gardens have been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 2003, and they include more than 30,000 different plant species throughout the unique property.

Garden History

Though the gardens were not opened until 1759, their layout is highly influenced by the presence of royal residences established in the area around 1299. Collections in the garden were relatively unorganized until 1771 when the first director was appointed. The gardens became a national botanical garden in 1840, and this designation has allowed Kew Gardens to grow and continue development with plant houses that allow non-native plant species to thrive in the gardens.

Distinguishing Features

In addition to the largest collection of living plants in the world, Kew contains one of the largest compost heaps in Europe. A treetop walkway is one of the newest additions to the gardens, offering a view 59 feet above the ground in the canopy of the trees. Sackler Crossing connects the gardens to other natural areas with an inspiring minimalist modern design.

Plant Houses

Several plant houses facilitate the growth of diverse plant species. These include the Alpine House, Nash Conservatory, Palm House, and Princess of Wales Conservatory. Ornamental buildings also line the property with the notable Chinese-inspired Great Pagoda, which dates back to 1762. Kew Palace, the smallest of the British royal places, stands on the grounds with the Queen’s Garden in the back, which only features plants that would have been in England in the 17th century.

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This article is part of our collection of The Most Spectacular Gardens in the World!


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