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6 May 2020

Explore the plant diversity at the Garden from your home

This May we are bringing our popular 'Must See' tour to you! Each plant on the tour is flowering or fruiting in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney this month.

Johnstone River Almond - Elaeocarpus bancroftii

A rainforest tree from far north Queensland with white bell-shaped flowers and fringed petals that hang in clusters. In Autumn, both the flowers and the round blue-green fruit from last year’s flowering can be seen. The fruit contains an edible seed inside a hard, outer layer. The fruit contains an edible seed inside a hard, outer layer. This seed is eaten by Aboriginal people and the fruit eaten by Southern Cassowaries, who distribute the seeds. The Giant White-tailed Rat, weighing up to 1kg also eats the seeds.

Madagascar Cycad - Cycas thouarsii

Although it grows to 10 metres tall and resembles a palm, this plant is a member of a much more ancient plant lineage that predates flowering plants by at least 100 million years. It doesn’t have flowers but has large male and female cones on separate plants. Both can be seen in our Southern Africa garden. You will also see many other examples of Cycads in this garden, that unlike the Madagascar Cycad, have stiff, blue green and often spiny leaves, so watch out.

Protea cynaroides 'Little Prince' dwarf King Protea

This is a low growing, compact form of the King Protea (P.cynaroides), the national flower of South Africa. The large flowers are surrounded by red bracts and attract both birds and bees in search of nectar.  It belongs to the large and very diverse, Gondwanan plant family, Proteaceae. A family named for the Greek god, Proteus, who was able to change his shape. A fitting name for such a diverse family, that includes the Banksia, Macadamia and Grevillea in Australia.

Moreton Bay Fig - Ficus macrophylla f. macrophylla

The Children’s Fig planted in the 1850s, is the oldest of many Moreton Bay Figs in our Garden. They are one of our most iconic trees, but have you seen them flower ? Well, they are flowering now, inside a structure (syconia), that looks like a small, green version of the fruit. Male and female floral parts are inside and require a single species of female wasp seeking somewhere to lay her eggs and covered in pollen to enter for pollination to take place.

Ribbonwood Tree - Idiospermum australiense

This rainforest tree endemic to the Daintree area in Queensland is a representative of an ancient flowering plant lineage and was discovered in 1902. By the 1970s it was thought extinct, until the mysterious death of a farmer’s cows led to its rediscovery. An autopsy confirmed the cows were poisoned and the fruit extracted from their gut was that of the Ribbonwood tree. The culprit tree was removed but more trees discovered. The waxy flowers have a cinnamon-citrus scent and change from white to burgundy as they age.

American Sweetgum - Liquidamber styraciflua 

Coastal Sydney is not famous for autumn colour but the American Sweetgum is one species that regularly reminds us that winter is on its way. Its five-pointed star-shaped leaves turn a mixture of yellows, oranges and reds before falling during winter. Flowers appear in late summer and are followed by a spiky, spherical and hard fruit. A popular ornamental tree, often seen as a street tree, it is also widely cultivated in the USA for its timber, used for plywood.

Kangaroo Grass - Themeda triandra

Large seed heads up to 1.5 m above the tussock forming leaves of Kangaroo grass move gently in the breeze in our newly renovated grass plots in the Palace Garden. One of the most widely distributed grasses in Australia, the species also occurs in New Guinea and Africa. Fertile seed has a large black appendage called an awn that helps screw the seed into the topsoil and enable germination. Archaeological evidence and the journals of early European explorers provide evidence that Aboriginal cultural groups have been harvesting and grinding Kangaroo Grass to make bread for more than 30 000 years.

Brazilian Red Cloak - Megaskepasma erthrochlamys

The long botanical name of this species refers to the prominent red-pink, bracts that surround the small white flowers and give this plant its ornamental appeal. Hardy in frost free areas, it grows well in semi-shaded parts of the garden even with heavy root competition. It is a mult-branched shrub that grows to 3 metres but benefits from pruning after flowering. Its large mid-green leaves and striking terminal bracts and flowers create a tropical look to the garden.

Our Must See tours are curated and led by a team of passionate volunteers. Learn more about our diverse volunteer programs here

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