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kew gardens temperate house
Credit: Courtesy of Kew Gardens

After five years, the public can once again step inside the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, the Temperate House in England's Kew Gardens, which reopens May 5.

Already home to London’s largest UNESCO site, the gardens are also home to the glasshouse, which dates back to 1863. It originally took 40 years to complete, and the five-year closure involved the structure's largest restoration project to date.

Inside, visitors will find 10,000 of the world’s most rare and threatened species, some of which can’t be found anywhere else.

kew gardens temperate house
Credit: Courtesy of Kew Gardens

The flora include rarities like the Dombeya mauritiana, from Mauritius, which was thought to be formally extinct until a member of Kew found it growing in the Mauritian highlands and brought cuttings of the tree to the glasshouse. There's also an Encephalartos woodi, dubbed the world's loneliest plant.

“Over the past few months, I have watched some of the world’s rarest plants finally reach their home,” Richard Barley, director of horticulture at the gardens, said in a statement. “And what a home it will be — a glistening cathedral, the new glass allowing the sun to stream in, the ironwork restored to its glossy best.”

kew gardens temperate house
Credit: Courtesy of Kew Gardens

The $55-million restoration included replacing 15,000 glass panes, removing and cleaning more than 69,000 original features, transporting some 116 urns by crane, and using 1,400 gallons of paint — enough to cover four football fields.

“When I used to be stuck in the office and get really depressed, I would come here at the weekend and take a deep breath, because there was a smell of the tropics,” Sir David Attenborough said of the gardens, in an interview with the BBC. “Plant species can go extinct just like animal species can go extinct; [so] this is a very important institution.”