Tropical and Exotic Plants in the UK

Compared to the consistently warm tropics, the climate of the United Kingdom is variable daily, as befits this set of island countries surrounded by sea. Additionally, weather conditions vary among England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. However, tropical plants do acclimate, adapt and grow successfully in the United Kingdom, bringing with them the bright colors and exotic beauty of a wide range of flowers, trees and other plants.

Mango tree

In its native Asia, the mango tree (Mangifera indica) can reach heights of up to 100 feet. It has a rounded canopy and a powerful root system that enables this tree to live several hundred years in some cases. Its long leaves, up to 12 inches, appear at the branch tips. They sprout in a myriad of colors that turn dark green, complementing the small yellow or red flowers that bloom in branched clusters. The mango fruit comes in various sizes, colors and qualities, depending on the cultivar. The most popular varieties have yellow or reddish-green skins and the mango fruit ranges from pale yellow to deep orange with a pleasant, sweet flavor. From Asia, the mango tree traveled all over the world, thanks to ancient voyages of discovery. England and France are among the chief importers of fresh mango. In the United Kingdom, mango trees can grow indoors or in a greenhouse, preferably with a south facing direction and ample light and air. Water only when the soil is almost totally dry, and give the plant a weekly application of phostrogen feed in the spring. Sandy, well-drained soil suits the mango tree. Besides the fresh fruit, mangoes have uses as juice, jams and other food and medicinal products.

Bird Of Paradise

In the United Kingdom, the bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) begins to flower around Christmas, and again in the summer. It prefers sunlight and airy conditions, and can do well in a greenhouse where it is protected from frost and cold. Water thoroughly, then do not water again until the plant is dry. An application of phostrogen once every two weeks or so encourages growth in the spring. This exotic, herbaceous plant has blue petals and orange sepals, blooming most of the year in its native South Africa. It reaches heights of between three and five feet. Sir Joseph Banks, the unofficial director of the Royal Gardens at Kew, introduced the bird of paradise to England in 1773. He named it for Queen Charlotte, duchess of the German principality of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a succulent herb that grows easily in a pot on a windowsill as well as outdoors. Its leaves contain a clear gel that millions of people apply to burns and various skin conditions. The green leaf produces a dried latex that is an oral medication for a variety of ailments, according to the National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Aloe is an FDA-approved natural food flavoring. Aloe vera has several common names, including burn plant and is considered endemic to Africa.

Keywords: UK tropical plants, bird of paradise, Aloe vera

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in publications such as "Stanislaus Magazine," "Orientations," "The Asia Magazine" and "The Peninsula Group Magazine." She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.