Sprinter is here. Former Director, Tim Entwisle, described this time of the year as a hybrid of winter and spring, when plants all around Sydney are bursting their buds and displaying their flowers. Following is a selection from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
Butterfly Amaryllis - Hippeastrum papilio
With petals shaped like the wings of the Swallowtail butterfly, this robust bulbous plant from Brazil is rare in the wild but increasingly popular in cultivation. It comes from the Atlantic forests of Brazil, where it grows naturally as an epiphyte on trees but adapts well to growing in well-drained soil in Sydney. Plants are available for sale at our Growing Friends Nursery.
Spitting Tree - Anneslea fragrans
Why do we call it The Spitting Tree? The flowers have an inbuilt trigger mechanism that spits out a blob of sticky pollen. The young flowers have petals tightly clasped together, in the shape of a Russian orthodox church spire. Slits in the swollen part of the flower allow fragrance to escape, attracting bees. When the bee disturbs the tip of the spire (a protruding style), pollen is fired out, coating the bee who will hopefully brush some on another flower for pollination to occur.
Bridal Veil Orchid - Dendrobium teretifolium
Look up to see this tenacious orchid clinging to its fig tree home. It has been attached to this tree for over 30 years and for most of the year goes unnoticed by visitors. However, in August, the Rat’s Tail Orchid becomes the Bridal Veil Orchid, as tiny, fragrant, white flowers burst from the buds to gloriously cloak and cover the Rat’s Tail shaped leaves. It occurs naturally from Cape York to south-eastern NSW, usually growing on Swamp Oak (Casuarina glauca) trees.
Gulgadya (Cadigal), Grass Tree - Xanthorrhoea species
Stunning, useful and resilient. What more could you ask for from a plant? Large flowering spikes covered in small white flowers emerge from the centre of the glaucous leaves. Small, white flowers rich in nectar attract bees and birds. The trunk or caudex is made from old leaf bases and protects the growing tip from fire. Resin from the caudex makes a strong glue when heated, leaves can be used for weaving and even the fleshy roots of the plant can be eaten.
Forest Lily - Veltheimia bracteata
This bulb from the forests of South Africa’s Eastern Cape brings a swathe of pink to this shady corner of our Southern Africa Garden, in late winter and early spring. Succulent, glossy, green leaves grow from the top of the bulb’s protruding neck through winter and die down in summer. This is a response to the dry summers of its native habitat and make it well-adapted to dry spells during Sydney’s summer.
Rose Silky Oak - Darlingia ferruginea
This striking member of the Macadamia and Banksia family (Proteaceae) is endemic to the Atherton and Evelyn tablelands of far north Queensland. It grows in rainforests between 650 – 1300 metres on basalt soils and can reach 30 metres in height. Leaves are large, deeply tri-lobed with a rusty under surface, covered in dark brown hairs. The tree produces a decorative timber with a grain reminiscent of oak. It is one of only two species in the genus, the other is Darlingia darlingiana.
Range Bloodwood - Corymbia abergiana
Buds of this medium-sized tree are bursting open in August and attracting not only European but native bees to the nectar rich white and cream flowers. This is one of many species of “Gum Tree”, made up of three genera, Eucalyptus, Angophora and Corymbia, in this part of our garden. Amongst them is a stately old Forest Red Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis), looking out over the harbour. It is a remnant of the forests that once grew on this site.
This is a modern hybrid of an ancient plant lineage. Magnolias are amongst the oldest living, flowering plants to appear in the fossil record, around 95 million years ago. This hybrid is much more recent. It is a hybrid of the tropical Asian, Magnolia liliiflora 'Nigra' and Magnolia campbellii subsp. mollicomata 'Lanarth' from the Himalayas via Cornwall in England. A truly international plant, it was bred in New Zealand. It is a deciduous, compact small tree with large, fragrant dark purple flowers. Magnificent!
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