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3 Dec 2021

Marine and land plants collide in captivating new display

A succulent as creeping coral? Or ivy as giant kelp? Strap yourself in for the new exhibit at The Calyx as land plants take on the roles of those under the sea.

Horticulturists have been busy getting creative with the land plants they work with to create an unmissable display like no other seen at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

Inside the Tide invites visitors on an immersive experience of spectacular aquatic delights, highlighting the importance of our marine environment while showcasing the Garden’s stunning collections.

“Our land plants are the actors with cactus and other succulents playing the roles of corals, and ferns and ivy becoming the seaweeds,” explains David Laughlin, Curator Manager at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

“We have pandanus trees on the sandy shore with mock seagrass meadows we’ve created to feel like you’re by the beach but in the heart of the city, surrounded by our beautiful gardens.”

Kids will love the interactive Inside the Tide display


The spectacular display tells the stories of hero plants in three aquatic communities – Kelp Forests, Coral Reefs and Seagrass Meadows – and each have a huge impact on our world:

  • They create oxygen, capture and store carbon, and filter and purify seawater by trapping toxins.
  • We eat them, use them in medical and scientific research, and many hold solutions for a sustainable future.
  • They are the foundation of all ocean food-webs, supporting marine animal life from the tiniest zooplankton to the largest blue whale.

“When most people hear the word seaweeds, they think of the dead stuff rotting on the beach or it touching their legs when they’re trying to swim,” explains Dr Yola Metti, a Phycologist who studies marine algae Australian Institute of Botanical Science.

“There’s a huge lack of awareness of the benefits of marine algae in general. One of the biggest things we can be thankful for is the amount of oxygen algae produce."

Dr Yola Metti studies marine seaweed and algae
Dr Yola Metti is a Phycologist who studies marine algae Australian Institute of Botanical Science.
An estimated 80 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen comes from marine algae. In fact, seaweeds make more oxygen than all the trees on the planet put together.
Dr Yola Metti, Australian Institute of Botanical Science

“Marine algae are at the base of the marine food chain which makes it seem like they’re the lowest but actually they’re the most important,” Dr Metti adds.

“This is a largely unexplored area of science and we’re making new discoveries with almost every dive. Our actions can have a huge effect on the survival of seaweed species. In protecting them we’re protecting the incredible life beneath our oceans.”

There are 20,045 plants alone in the vertical green wall, one the largest in the southern hemisphere, and about 2,600 in displays on the floor.

The display, which is entry by donation, will also include works from hundreds of school students across NSW who took part in educational workshops this year. Kids can also take part in activities including First Nations fishing and seagrass yoga.

Chief Executive Denise Ora says the team have worked with creative company Erth to bring a surreal, magical and playful display to life, combing theatre with horticulture for an experience not to be missed.

Inside the Tide is an aquatic pantomime brought to life in The Calyx where visitors will be able to come face to face with giant sea creatures like the topiary blue whale, a chandelier of jellyfish or blue ringed octopus with interactive elements both children and adults will enjoy,” Ms Ora says.

Inside the Tide is presented in partnership with Erth, thanks to the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund, an Australian Government initiative.

Be the first to see it

Erth will also have a deep sea diver performer that will rove The Calyx between 12 and 3pm on the first days of opening from December 3 to 5.

The display runs until July with free and ticketed event options.

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