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world's oldest potted plant in new Kew Gardens home

Usually it is a simple matter, involving a sheet of newspaper, a trowel and a bag of compost.

But when the future of the world's oldest pot plant is at stake, repotting becomes a much more complicated process.

It took nine gardeners, a crane and three months of meticulous planning to place a one-tonne tree believed to be the oldest plotted plant in the world in a new container.
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It took nine gardeners, a crane and three months of meticulous planning to move the one-tonne plant

The ancient cycad, a palm-like tree collected on one of Captain Cook's voyages, was first slowly hoisted out of its box at London's Kew Gardens.

Five gardeners then clung onto and supported its angular trunk, while others slid the replacement container underneath.

The plant was then lowered into the mahogany pot, which stands the height of a seven-year-old child, and a tonne of soil packed round it.

The delicate operation was successfully completed this morning.

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Move along now: The cycad, which has a 4m trunk was supported by a specially-made lifting gantry

Wes Shaw, keeper of the Palm House where Encephalartos altensteninii cycad is on display, said: 'It is a very special plant.

'It came to Kew in 1775 and was last repotted 20 years ago.

'The container was breaking down and for aesthetic reasons and for the health of the plant it was time to have a go at repotting it.

'We were quite worried about what would happen. None of us had done this before, it was a steep learning curve but it all went without a hitch and it looks fantastic.

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The plant is one of 500 species gathered for the botanical gardens during Captain Cook's second voyage around the globe

'When I think of how many gardeners have cared for this plant over the years, it gives me a real sense of the heritage and importance of the living collection that we are all responsible for here at Kew - and the incentive to ensure it keeps on thriving through my time in the Palm House.

'Cycads are fascinating prehistoric plants, and this one is the don of the Palm House.

'It has been slowly growing year by year since the Gardens began.
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Team effort: The plant was last re-potted 20 years ago

As Kew celebrates its 250th anniversary, it's a fitting time to re-pot this gem to ensure that it remains healthy for future generations.'

The ancient cycad was collected in the early 1770s from the Eastern Cape in South Africa by Kew's first plant hunter, Frances Masson.

It was one of 500 species gathered for the botanical gardens during Captain Cook's second voyage around the globe.

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Pride of place: The ancient plant stands proudly in its new pot at Kew Gardens' Palm House

For the last 160 years, the tree has been housed in Kew's Palm House, where its nobbly trunk has grown outwards and upwards at an inch a year.

It now stretches to 14ft 5 inches and because it is growing at an angle, is propped up by stilts.

The cycad family comes from the Jurassic era and pre-dates flowering plants.

They can live more than 500 years and provide botanists with clues about the nature of early plants.

Kew has one of the oldest and most diverse cycad collections in the world.
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