Horticulturist Lucie's trip to Brazil
Eden Project Skilled Horticulturist Lucie Oldale is helping bring the real Brazil to our Rainforest Biome. Read all about her inspirational research trip.
“Bringing Brazil to the Biome”
The habitat we've created in our Biome is like nowhere else in the world, and having a range of climates packed into one compact area means we really need to think differently. We're always experimenting with new plants and trees – both to ensure that the plants we introduce will grow well in our soil conditions and without a lot of light (especially throughout the Cornish winter), but most importantly to offer our visitors an authentic rainforest experience.
“Learning brilliant insights from Brazilian experts”
I spent three weeks travelling around different areas in one of the only countries in the world where you can experience the humid tropics of the Amazon, as well as the drier heat of the Atlantic rainforest. I also met some incredible horticulturalists who were able to guide me, help expand my knowledge and offer help for the future, like sourcing seeds for displays in our Biome.
“Seeing the real thing, up close and personal”
My trip allowed me to visit some amazing places: Inhotim, which houses the largest collection of palms in Brazil; Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu, where they're embarking on a restoration project reclaiming old farm land and converting it back to forest; Serra Dos Órgãos National Park, where I spent a day observing the many lianas and bromeliads in the canopy; the Rio de Janeiro Botanic Gardens, with its grand alleyways of trees all historically named for Brazil's kings and emperors; and Manaus in the Amazon, where I joined PhD students for field work, trekking through the rainforest undergrowth with machetes, hunting for climbers in the Bignoniaceae family which will be used for their DNA analysis.
“Bringing the authentic experience to Cornwall”
The trip has given me so many ideas for our own trials in the Biome, from simple things such as planting more Rhipsalus – an amazing epiphytic cactus that hangs down from the trees – to more complicated undertakings. For example, after seeing a fruiting Cannonball tree, I’d be really keen to try hand pollination in the hope of producing our own giant fruits in the future. In the wild, these trees are usually pollinated by bees.
We’ll also look at seed sourcing exciting new species so that we can fill the new Rainforest Canopy Walkway with fantastic tropical South American trees and plants.
“I fulfilled a lifelong dream…”
A really special moment for me was on a boat trip in the Amazon, seeing massive Victoria amazonica growing – a personal dream of mine. We have been lucky enough to have these in the Biome, but seeing these giant water lilies in the wild, where they can grow up to 2.5m across, was truly amazing.