Legacy Maker

The plant messiah

Carlos Magdalena, Kew, England

Meet the horticulturist with his own unique approach

Carlos Magdalena can’t help but enjoy his nickname, “The Plant Messiah”, since it helps him to spread his plant conservation gospel. “It started in a Spanish newspaper,” says the tropical senior horticulturist at Kew Gardens, famous for his unique approach to preserving the Earth’s rarest flora.

“They’d seen I was saving species and wrote an article entitled ‘El Mesias de las plantas’.”

“What’s rewarding is to be able to make a difference to a species’ fate”

A lifelong obsession with horticulture has got him here. “What’s rewarding is to be able to make a difference to a species’ fate,” he says. “I have an obsession with keeping things alive. Once you identify a plant’s underlying problem, you’re likely to find the solution at the same time.”

“Forging your own path in life is very important”

His messianic mission has taken Carlos all over the world. “Propagating and cultivating a new type of plant is always a challenge and something to look forward to,” he says. “When it involves travelling to the country where it grows, there’s a great sense of adventure.” And he’s convinced everyone has that spirit within them.


“Forging your own path in life is very important,” he says. “Embrace what you’re good at. You spend more time in life working than anything else — so you need to find happiness in that time.”


Photography by Jody Daunton