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10 Dec 2020

Explore floral favourites this December

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from staff and volunteers at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. We hope you have the opportunity to enjoy our Garden over the festive season. Here are a few of our floral favourites blooming now. 

Barringtonia neocaledonica

This rare evergreen tree is endemic to New Caledonia. White flowers with a pink blush and showy stamens hang from long racemes in early summer. In winter, the large leaves turn bright red before falling in spring.

Unfortunately, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Rainbow Lorikeets sometimes get a little too excited when landing on the floral racemes, leaving a carpet of flowers beneath the tree. This is one of the unusual plants propagated by volunteers and sold at the Growing Friends nursery.

Coolamon, Watermelon Tree - Syzygium moorei

This rare rainforest tree from northern NSW and southern Queensland is named after the longest-serving director of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Charles Moore (1848-96).

Watermelon pink flowers emerge from buds that sprout directly from woody branches (ramiflory) and occasionally larger stems (cauliflory). Flowers are followed by large, white, edible fruit similar to, but much larger than local Lillypillies.

Summer Wildflower Meadow

A carpet of flowers woven together by serpentine paths creates a fantastic habitat for insects and a space for visitors to immerse themselves in the multi-faceted joy of flowers.

Explore the Wildflower Meadow and enjoy the colour, texture and fragrance of the flowers and look more closely to discover an abundance of pollinating bees and butterflies and beneficial bugs such as Lady Beetles. Cosmos, Marigolds, Gaillardias and Zinnias representatives of the world’s largest family of flowering plants, Asteraceae, are amongst the early season heroes of the Meadow.

Paper Gardenia - Tabernaemontana cerifera

Rarely seen but never forgotten, this plant from New Caledonia has been stimulating the senses of visitors for decades. The star-shaped white flowers have a delicate Gardenia-like fragrance that is stronger at night.

The bases of the petals are fused together to make a thin nectar containing tube. Indicating they are probably pollinated by moths. This is a small, easily grown, evergreen tree with large, glossy green leaves but does contain poisonous latex-like sap. A quirky feature is the little ‘boat’ shaped fruit, still present even during the new season flowering.  

Red Flowering Gum - Corymbia ‘Summer Red’

This small tree with its bright red flowers and dark green foliage heralds the arrival of the Christmas season. It marked a revolution in our ability to grow red flowering gums from West Australia in the eastern states.

The grafting of C. ficifolia onto C. ptychocarpa rootstock made this possible. Flowers cover the tree canopy giving easy access to hordes of native and non-native birds feeding on its rich supply of nectar. Many new cultivars with orange, scarlet and white flowers can be seen near Lion Gate Lodge.

Voodoo Lily, Snake Palm - Amorphophallus bulbifer

The unusual flowers of this herbaceous perennial from India and Burma are a delicate pink colour but pack a powerful smell of rotten eggs. This helps attract flies looking for a place to lay their eggs who along the way, assist pollination.

Leaves that follow flowering carry plump brown bulbils which produce a new plant when they fall to the ground. An even more bizarre member of the genus, Amorphophallus paeonifolius can be seen on the corner of our Australian Rainforest Garden nearby.

Red Tower Ginger - Costus comosus var bakeri 

Bright yellow flowers poke out from large red bracts making this an exceptionally showy member of the Costus family (Costaceae). These bracts and flowers attract hummingbirds in their native habitats in central America, seeking the sweet nectar within the yellow flowers, and as they push their beaks through the flower’s small opening, they help transfer pollen between flowers.

This is a tall ginger relative, growing to a height of 1.5 to 2 metres tall and does best in frost-free warm to tropical areas. A surprising feature of this plant is velvety under surface of the leaves.  

Tipa, Rosewood or Pride of Bolivia - Tipuana tipu

Covered in early December with papery, pea-shaped, yellow flowers, this deciduous tree from South America is the only species in the Genus Tipuana (monotypic). Growing as wide as it does tall (30 m) it makes an excellent shade tree.

Flowers are followed by winged fruit called samaras, with three hard seeds and a large thin wing that causes the fruit to rotate as it falls just like little helicopters.

Learn more 

Why not join a Guided Walk of the Garden with one of our knowledgeable Volunteer Guides, on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Find out more here

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