Skip to content
2 Aug 2021

Golden Wattle headlines this month’s plant heroes at the Garden

Why not take a virtual tour of our Garden this winter and discover more about some of the more than twenty one thousand plants in our living collection.  

Magnolia 'Vulcan' 

Magnolias are popular horticultural plants for their beautiful, often fragrant flowers. They are examples of basal angiosperms, ancient lineages of flowering plants. Magnolias come from East Asia, the Americas and the West Indies. This hybrid was bred in New Zealand from a tropical Asian species Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ and a Himalayan species Magnolia campbelli subsp.mollicomata ‘ Lanarth’. It is a deciduous, compact tree with stunning large and fragrant dark purple flowers.

Queensland Kauri Pine - Agathis robusta

Grown from seed collected by the former Director of this Garden, John Carne Bidwill in 1849, this tree planted in 1853 is now recognised as one of our tallest trees at nearly forty metres. A member of the southern hemisphere family of conifers, Araucariaceae that includes the Wollemi and Norfolk Island Pines. Trees produce separate male and female cones. Males are small, thin and numerous and the pollen they produce is spread by the wind to female cones. They are larger and round, about the size of a tennis ball, and after pollination produce seeds also spread by the wind. 


Grass Tree, Gulgadya (Cadigal) - Xanthorrhoea sp.

Twenty eight species of Grass Trees occur in Australia and they are generally slow growing and long lived. The trunk, or caudex is made from old leaf bases that develop beneath the crown and protect the growing tip from fire. Large flower spikes are covered in small white flowers that are spirally arranged and are rich in nectar. Fire stimulates flowering, making them an important food source for birds and insects after fire. Resin from the caudex can be used to make a glue and the leaves used for weaving.

Sydney Golden Wattle - Acacia longifolia 

Native to eastern NSW and eastern Victoria this is one of more than one thousand species of Acacia native to Australia. A bushy shrub that can grow to 8m, it is fast growing with abundant bright yellow flowers in winter and early spring. The ‘leaves’ are actually flattened and widened leaf stalks called phyllodes, considered an adaptation to drier climates. The small yellow flowers are arranged in cylindrical spikes with numerous stamens giving them a fluffy appearance.

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 vist another flower so that pollination can take place.

Butterfly Amaryllis - Hippeastrum papilio

This bulb is endemic to the rainforests of Brazil’s Atlantic Coast, which are amongst the world’s richest in terms of biodiversity and the remnants are listed as World Heritage Sites. The species epithet, papilio is Latin for butterfly as the petals are shaped like the wings of the swallowtail butterfly. These bulbs adapt well to growing in Sydney in well-drained soil and are resistant to a virus that causes red streaking or blotches on many Hippeastrum varieties. 

Lord Howe Fig - Ficus macrophylla f. columnaris

This form of the more commonly planted Moreton Bay Fig is found only on Lord Howe Island off the east coast of Australia. It demonstrates the banyan growth form of fig trees. It has no true main trunk but forms new trunks from tendril-like roots sent down to the ground from large horizontal branches. Over time a single tree can colonise a large area, as new trunks are formed along these branches. A single specimen on Lord Howe Island covers a hectare.

Dragon's Blood Tree - Dracaena draco

A tree of myth and legend associated with ancient writers and mariners who brought tales to Europe of the magical qualities of blood-like resin from ancient gigantean plants. Although reputedly used as a love potion the resin, produced from wounds in the trunk and branches, was traded from the 15th century for use as a polish especially for violins. Our oldest specimen (picture circa 1905), planted in the late 19th century, toppled on its side in 2008 but has continued to grow, flower, and fruit.

Learn more 

Bringing the garden to you and inspiration for you home garden. Head to the Gardening at Home section of our website for expert advice. 

Category: Horticulture
If you are a journalist and have a media enquiry about this story, please click here for contact details and more information.