Thursday, September 21, 2017 - 11:00

The Eden Project has sent a tree specialist to Florida to help a famous botanic garden recover from the ravages of Hurricane Irma.

Tropical arborist Craig Lewis has taken a chainsaw and ropes with him to The Kampong, part of the National Tropical Botanic Garden, to assist the big clean-up operation. He landed in Miami last night (Wednesday) and will spend a week helping with the clean-up.

The garden, in Coconut Grove, Miami, is celebrated for its fascinating array of tropical fruit cultivars and flowering trees. It suffered extensive damage earlier this month when the storm tore through its trees, felling many and bringing down power lines.

Eden Project Director of Life Sciences Dr Mike Maunder is a Trustee of the National Tropical Botanic Garden and was Director of The Kampong until joining Eden.

He said: “Eden has a close relationship with NTBG and when we heard of the damage it was clear we had to help. Collections of plants are uniquely vulnerable to extreme weather and it is imperative that the repair is performed by horticultural experts. Craig will be joining the superb Kampong team.”

Craig Lewis was chosen as Eden’s chainsaw-carrying ambassador due to his extensive work in the tropics and expertise working at height.

Craig, who lives in Bodmin, Cornwall, and who has worked at Eden for 12 years, said before setting off: “I’m ready to help. The damage to The Kampong looks quite horrific. A lot of iconic trees in the garden have been uprooted and others have been seriously damaged.

“There are roads blocked and paths caved in. I will be helping by surveying the standing trees, taking branches off where needed to make them safer, and cleaning and tidying the whole area.”

Craig will be using skills honed in the rainforest in Indonesia where he worked for Voluntary Services Overseas. He has also worked in Miami in the 1990s and helped clear up after a previous hurricane.

Named for the Malay or Javanese word for a village or cluster of houses, The Kampong is the former estate of Dr David Fairchild, the famed botanical explorer who traveled throughout Southeast Asia and other tropical regions collecting exotic plants to feed the U.S.

NTBG holds one of the world’s great tropical plant collections in its gardens in Hawai’i and Florida, including an extraordinary collection of endangered species.

The Kampong contains collections from Southeast Asia, Central and South Americas, the Caribbean, and other tropical locales, with a special emphasis on tropical fruits, including candle fruit, peanut butter fruit, egg fruit, cocoplums, and over 50 varieties of mango.