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4 Jan 2023

Beat the heat and enjoy some of the Garden’s shady secrets

Take a walk in the shade to escape the sun and discover fascinating plants and flowers.

Pineapple Zamia - Lepidozamia peroffskyana

Endemic to Australia this cycad grows near the coast from northern NSW to south east Queensland. It can grow to 7 metres and often in dense stands. Normally it has an unbranched trunk, but in some plants trunks branch resulting in up to five heads. Male and female plants can be easily differentiated once the cones appear. Male cones are more slender than female cones and open spirally. Female cones (pictured) split and drop large poisonous seeds coated in a fleshy red exocarp. Family: Zamiaceae

The Sydney Fernery

The Sydney Fernery opened in 1993, specially designed to create a cool and shady microclimate for more than 300 species of fern and other tropical plants including Begonias. Convict-made sandstone blocks remain in the walls in the back corner. You can see banker’s marks on the stone blocks etched to identify the convict mason for payment in rum. The slatted steel roof provides the shade, and a misting system keeps the area cool and humid. This is perfect place to explore on a hot summer’s day

Sandpaper Fig - Ficus coronata

Australia has over 40 native fig species including ten sandpaper figs due to their rough sandpapery leaves. Ficus coronata grows on riverbanks and in gullies close to the coast from central Queensland to northern Victoria. It bears flowers and fruit on the trunk and woody stems, called ‘cauliflory’. Pollination occurs by a symbiotic relationship with a single species of fig wasp which can only reproduce inside the host fig flowers. The fruit ripen to purple and is edible. Family: Moraceae

Lemon Myrtle - Backhousia citriodora

Lemon Myrtle is a large tree endemic to coastal areas of central and southern Queensland, from Brisbane to Mackay. A tree famous for the oil found it its leaves, it is also worth admiring it for its flowers. Dainty white fluffy flowers cover the tree at this time of year attracting many pollinators. Like other members of the myrtle family, including the eucalypts, leaves contain oil glands. Lemon Myrtle leaves contain citral oil, a lemon scented oil also found in lemon grass. Leaves can be used to make a refreshing tea, as a spice or as a perfume. Family: Myrtaceae

Ginkgo - Ginkgo biloba

This tree from China is the only surviving species of one of the world's oldest 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, that looks like a small plum. As they mature and fall, they have an unpleasant smell but the nuts inside are edible and often served to celebrate Lunar New Year in China and Vietnam. Family: Ginkgoace

Pink or Hairy Banana - Musa velutina

Native to North East India this small banana is grown as an ornamental for its bright pink flowers and fruit. Unlike cultivated bananas that are parthenocarpic, meaning they produce fruit without pollination, these flowers are pollinated by bats attracted to the nectar. The fruit is covered in fuzzy pink peel that splits when ripe, revealing white flesh surrounding small rock-hard black seeds. Cultivated bananas have no seeds as they are not pollinated. Family: Musaceae

Portea petropolitana var. extensa 

This stunning plant is one of nine species in the genus Portea which originates from the Atlantic coast of Brazil. A terrestrial bromeliad, it grows on rocks and in sandy soil in its native habitat. The flower spike emerges above the rosette of lime green leaves with its many branches covered in purple flowers. Dark purple fruit follow flowering after which the rosette of leaves dies. However, offsets called pups, at the base of the plant continue to grow. Family: Bromeliaceae

Coolamon, Durobby- Syzygium moorei 

This rare tree is from the subtropical rainforests of the northern rivers area of NSW. It is listed as vulnerable, at risk due to the low population size and loss of habitat for agriculture and housing. A tall tree with dense dark foliage and showy pink fluffy flowers in summer that are clustered on old leafless branches (called ramiflory), as well as on the trunk (called cauliflory). The fruit are white and large, and like other Lilly Pillies, they are edible. The tree was name after former director (1848-96) of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Charles Moore. Family: Myrtaceae

Learn more 

Why not join a Guided Walk of the Garden with one of our knowledgeable Volunteer Guides, daily at 10:30 am. Find out more here

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