A superabundance of stunning fruits and flowers is flourishing as never before in the Rainforest Biome at the Eden Project in Cornwall
Among the botanical wonders turning visitors’ heads is a giant jackfruit the size of a rugby ball and soon ready for eating.
The high walls of the Biome – once part of a sterile clay quarry – are cloaked with carpets of flowers in dazzling arrays of yellow and purple.
Tropical specialists among Eden’s horticulture team say the combination of the extraordinarily warm spring and a highly-effective new irrigation system has helped create the spectacular show of flora and exotic fruit.
In a dense pocket near the Biome’s Malaysian Garden stands a Jackfruit tree – proper name Artocarpus heterophyllus – bearing on its side the single giant pendulous fruit. Other Jackfruit trees nearby have multiple smaller examples.
In the wild, this tree grows the largest fruits in the world, weighing as much as 20kg. Common in South East Asian cuisine, the ripe fruits are sweet and also have a meaty texture, likened sometimes to pulled pork.
Elsewhere in the Biome – the world’s biggest undercover rainforest – are abundant Starfruit trees, another South East Asia favourite grown for their sharp and refreshing fruits and beautiful pink and purple flowers.
Also producing as never before is the Giant granadilla, the largest of all the Passionfruits which can grow more than 30cm long. The pulp around the seeds and the flesh of the fruit are both eaten and used to make drinks.
Perennial favourites in the Biome are the towering Musa species of banana plant, some of which are in full fruit and freaky rust-coloured flower right now.
Lucie Oldale, living landscapes educator, said: “The bananas are very healthy. These are the largest herbaceous plants in the world, often mistaken for a tree. They are cultivated all over the tropics and have been extensively bred to produce the sweet yellow fruits we are familiar with today.”
Pineapples, papaya and mango are also fruiting away in the heat and humidity of the Biome.
Eden’s Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes were closed for more than three months during lockdown. Lucie and fellow living landscapes educator Leo Hood took it in turns to look after the rainforest while the visitors were away.
Leo said: “The Biome is as wild, abundant and fertile as we have ever seen it. We installed a new irrigation system shortly before lockdown which means we can more effectively keep everything watered and control the humidity. The hot spring certainly helped fruiting and flowering.”
Since the Biomes reopened on July 4, visitors have been entering the rainforest through a side door. The horticulture team say that having the door open has allowed in more bees and other pollinators, increasing the array of flowers and fruit going into autumn.
A striking example is a wall of rampant golden trumpet vine, also known as Allamanda, which originates from Brazil. This is especially profuse on the walkway to the 50 metre-high Rainforest Lookout, closed temporarily due to social distancing rules.
Another head-turner is the yellow-flowered Thunbergia alata carpeting the wall near the Cloud Bridge on the Biome’s Rainforest Canopy Walkway.