Blooming first as dragon leaf flowers in Ardingly

Jo Wenham collecting seeds in Tasmania in 2008
Jo Wenham collecting seeds in Tasmania in 2008

The rare richea dracophylla, or dragon leaf richea, has flowered at Wakehurst Place in Ardingly in a blooming first for experts at the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

Jo Wenham, plant propagation and conservation unit manager at Wakehurst, collected seeds from the richea during a seed collecting trip in Tasmania in 2008 with partners from Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and the Tasmanian Botanic Garden and Seed Bank.

This species of richea can grow up to five metres tall in its natural habitat

This species of richea can grow up to five metres tall in its natural habitat

Jo said: “As far as our records show, the richea dracophylla is a new species in cultivation for Kew and Wakehurst Place and will be added to the wonderful southern hemisphere collections at Wakehurst next season.”

The striking Tasmanian plant, also known as the pineapple candleheath or dragon leaf richea because of its blade shaped leaves, is extremely rare in cultivation in the UK as it is notoriously difficult to breed.

Now, following work by the plant propagation team at Wakehurst, the plant is displaying a dense spike of white flowers and is on show at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst.

Jo added: “The seed was collected in a forest, in an area of Tasmania known as Snug Tiers, on a hunt to secure wild plants for long term storage in the Millennium Seed Bank and to grow for our living collections at Wakehurst and Kew.

“Because the richea has complex propagation needs, the success of the first germination and flowering at Wakehurst Place is something to celebrate and it is wonderful to see it flowering.”

Two other species from the same family, richea pandanifolia and richea milliganii, have also been successfully germinated from seed collected on the same trip and will be added to Kew’s living plant collections.

The dragon leaf richea is one of more than 100 species collected on the trip to Tasmania in 2008 and 35 have been banked in the Millennium Seed Bank.

Whilst flowering the dragon leaf will be on display in the Orange Room at the Millennium Seed Bank.