Each plant on the tour is flowering or fruiting in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney this month. Enjoy April's Garden favourites with our experienced horticulturist Paul Nicholson.
Golden Shrimp Plant - Pachystachys lutea
Native to Central and South America, the yellow bracts are thought to resemble the overlapping scales of a shrimp, giving it the common name. The white flowers are two lipped tubes that are short lived and emerge sequentially up the spike from the overlapping yellow bracts. The White Shrimp Plant, Justicia betonica with cream bracts, green veins and purple flowers (pictured above) and Justicia brandegeeana, another Shrimp Plant, can be found in the Middle Garden.
Madagascar Palm - Pachypodium lamerei
It may be called a palm, but it is a pachycaul succulent meaning it has a thickened stem that can store water for times of drought. Another characteristic is the spines that cover the trunk, which are clustered in pairs or threes arranged in rings or whorls around the trunk. The spines emerge with the leaves, grow for a short period before hardening. Fog can condense on the spines forming dew that drops to the ground. Don’t miss the large white flowers.
Japanese Windflower - Eriocapitella x hybrida
Walk through the Camellia beds and you will see these lovely flowers fluttering in the breeze. The former scientific name, derives from the Greek "anemos", meaning "winds”. The windflower has been cultivated in China from at least the 17th century and many hybrid forms developed from three species; A. hupehensis, A. vitifolium, and A. tomentosa. Recently the genus has been split and many Anomene species are now part of the far less poetic genus, Eriocapitella.
False Kava - Piper latifolium f. latifolium
From the pepper family, this species is one of over 2000 from the Piper genus that includes Piper nigrum, the source of both black and white pepper. These tropical plants grow as vines, herbs or shrubs as understorey in rainforests. This species is native to the Pacific, while culinary pepper originates from Southern India. Note the distinctive heart-shaped leaves, the upright flower spike with many tiny flowers that don’t have petals or sepals, and the red fruit on twisted spikes. Visit our Tropical Garden to see Piper auritum with larger leaves and white flowers.
Atherton Oak - Athertonia diversifolia
This tree is endemic to the north east Queensland wet tropic rainforests, including the Atherton Tableland. A relative of the Macadamia, it also has an edible nut. The fruits are eaten by Musky Rat-kangaroos and native rats, who eat the seeds while attached to the tree so only empty shells drop to the ground. The species name refers to the variability in leaf shape between juvenile and adult leaves. The common name refers to how some leaves resemble those of the English Oak (Quercus robur).
Blue Tongue, Native Lasiandra - Melastoma affine
Blue tongue gets its name from the sweet blue-black fruits that stain the mouth. It grows on the margins of tropical and subtropical forests in northern Australia and is a pioneer species that recolonises disturbed areas in wet forests. It relies on bees for pollination, the flowers do not produce nectar but lots of pollen. Researchers have shown that European honey bees out compete native bees for pollen resulting in less fruit and seed, impacting the reproduction of the plant.
Beehive Ginger - Zingiber spectabile
This species of ginger is native to SE Asia where it has been used as a medicinal herb. Its infloresence is a cylindrical, beehive-like spike with a rounded apex, hence the plant’s common name. Short-lived, true flowers, dark purple in colour and with a fragile, papery texture, protrude from pouches which generally open from the bottom upwards. As the infloresence matures its colour may change from yellow to red through pink or orange. A close relative of Beehive Ginger, Zingiber officinale is the source of root ginger.
Garden Croton - Codiaeum variegatum
As summer turns to autumn, flowers are disappearing, but colour is everywhere in the Garden. Many plants have variegated leaves that provide amazing colours all year round and Codiaeum is a great example. Leaf blades are coloured green, white, orange, purple, yellow, red or pink. The colours may follow the leaf veins, or appear as blotches on the leaf. The flowers are rather insignificant in comparison. The male flowers are small and white, the female flowers are yellowish with no petals.
Join a Guided Walk of the Garden with one of our knowledgeable Volunteer Guides on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Find out more here (availability may be temporary unavailable at times due to COVID-19 restrictions).