Exotic plants thrive in hot, dry British summer
The UK has witnessed more exotic plants and fruits growing amid record-breaking hot and dry weather this summer, according to a BBC news report.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) predicts that wetter winters and warmer, drier summers with greater variability in rainfall will produce conditions favorable to some more exotic plants.
In fact, gardens in the north of England have already been feeling the effects including Harlow Carr in Harrogate which has had a sub-tropical garden since 2020.
The Royal Horticulture Society garden is curated by Russell Watkins who first started working there 17 years ago. Back then, he grew plants standard to the UK - a mix of hardy shrubs and perennials that live for many years.
"We have all pushed the boundaries of what we can grow", he said, pointing to the huge tropical-looking foliage of the rice paper plant, saying "a few years ago it wouldn't have survived".
Hardy bananas, various dahlias, and some species of ginger are increasingly surviving winters, he says, and "thriving in the long spells of sunny weather that we have had this year."
Moreover, further south, in East Anglia, window cleaner Chris Bower grows sub-tropical plants as a hobby and has successfully grown watermelons and figs. This year he's proud of his crop of jujube or Chinese dates, persimmons, and yuzu, a type of citrus.
"As climate change continues it becomes easier and easier" to grow non-native varieties, he explained.
Meanwhile in cities, the heat island effect (where a city experiences much warmer temperatures than nearby rural areas due to the infrastructure) is boosting the growth of exotic fruits.
Kew Gardens Botanist James Wong has found avocados growing in London, which he believes grew from discarded seeds that have since sprouted, and highlights that they are hardier than many people think.
"The really big London avocados have taken lows of even -10C for short periods including during the 'beast from the east' storm in 2018," he explained.
Although exotic plants are excelling, British garden varieties have been suffering and scientists have warned that a continuation of hot dry summers and a lack of water could threaten all plants in the future.
"Long summers may well be initially warmly welcomed in the UK, and provide an exciting opportunity for growing new exotic food crops," explained Chris Atkinson, a plant scientist from the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, but water shortages pose a problem to effectively growing any type of plant.
To read the full report, please click here.