We welcome the Lunar Year of the Ox this month. Look out for some stunning plants from northern Asia among this month’s selection of plants flowering in our Garden.
Lotus, Sacred Lotus - Nelumbo nucifera
Lotus, the national flower of India and Vietnam, is an important symbol for both Hindu and Buddhist religions. Leaf stalks, young leaves, rootstock and seeds are all edible. After flowering, the seed pod bends downward when mature, releasing its seeds into the water where they remain viable for hundreds of years. Leaves repel water, that moves in droplets like mercury across the tiny, wax coated filaments that project from the leave surface.
Wonderful Calabash Tree - Crescentia mirabilis
This endangered species is found growing naturally only in north-eastern Cuba. Crescentia mirabilis is an intriguing small tree with exquisite chartreuse flowers followed by large round fruits. The fruit pulp is traditionally used for respiratory problems, whilst the hard shell when cut in half makes scoops, cups and containers. Flowers have a musky fragrance at night and emerge directly from woody branches (ramiflory). They are pollinated in their habitat by nectar feeding bats.
Pewter Plant - Strobilanthes lanata
Pewter Plant, also known as Strobilanthus gossypina, is a shrub from India that is popular in cultivation due to its stunning silvery-grey leaves. Fine white hairs give the leaves an iridescent sheen. Plants grow to 1.5 metres and naturally form rounded domes of foliage in a frost-free environment. Flowers are mauve and emerge on flower spikes above the foliage. However, this is a mast seeding species and plants die after flowering and the production of seed. Plants are often available for sale at our Growing Friends nursery.
Dinner Plate Fig - Ficus dammaropsis
In the middle of our Tropical Garden you will find a large shrub with enormous pleated leaves. This is the Dinner Plate Fig, native to New Guinea where it grows in the highlands between 800 and 2750 metres. It has the largest leaves of any fig tree. Leaves are used for wrapping suckling pigs before cooking in a fire pit. The fruit is large but does not develop viable seeds in our garden as the tiny wasp that this species requires for pollination does not occur in Australia.
Blue Ginger - Dichorisandra thyrsiflora
This spectacular plant from eastern Brazil brings a vibrant splash of blue to the shady garden. Terminal panicles of flowers sit atop cane-like stems surrounded by spirally arranged glossy green leaves. Although its common name suggests it is a member of the Ginger family (Zingiberaceae). it is part of the Commelinaceae (Spiderwort) family. Like other members of the family, flowers are thought to be buzz-pollinated where vibrations created in the bee’s thorax stimulate the release of pollen.
Begonia - Begonia minor
There are more than 1800 species of Begonia in the wild and many thousands of bred varieties, but this species was the first introduced to Europe from Jamaica in the Eighteenth century. It clearly demonstrates two of the major characteristics of the genus; asymmetrical leaves and separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Look for the wing-shaped ovaries below the petals and you have found the female flower. Begonias are found in South and Central America, Africa, Asia and New Guinea.
Plume Poppy - Macleaya cordata
This is a striking and large, herbaceous perennial in the Poppy family, Papaveraceae. It is native to China and Japan. In China, its name refers to the musical sound made from blowing the plants hollow stem. The genus name honours Alexander Macleay (1767-1848), Colonial Secretary of NSW, naturalist and gardener responsible for importing many ornamental plants to Australia. The species epithet refers to the plants beautiful heart-shaped leaves. Plants spread vigorously from underground rhizomes.
Ginkgo or Maidenhair Tree - Ginkgo biloba
This species from China belongs to one of the world's oldest surviving plant lineages. Fossil records date back 270 million years. Trees are either female or male and we have both types in our garden. Female trees produce round yellow brown seeds covered in a soft fleshy coating. As they mature and fall, they have an unpleasant smell but the nuts inside are often served to celebrate Lunar New Year.
Join a Guided Walk of the Garden with one of our knowledgeable Volunteer Guides on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Find out more here (availability may be temporary unavailable at times due to COVID-19 restrictions).