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4 Aug 2022

Botanical surprises in the Garden this August

The Garden is full of surprises this month, from a 30 year old hanging orchid to stunning bulbs bursting into flower.

Magnolia 'Yellow Lantern'

Magnolias are known for their showy and often fragrant flowers and are native to East Asia, the Americas and the West Indies. This yellow flowering hybrid has the oddly named Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata var. subcordata) from the USA as one of its parents. The other is Magnolia x soulangeana 'Alexandrina'. It won the Royal Horticultural Society award of merit in 2012. Magnolias are examples of what are called “basal angiosperms”, and as such are one of the most ancient flowering plant lineages represented today.

Dendrobium teretifolium
Rat's Tail or Bridal Veil Orchid

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 and yellow 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, often growing on Swamp Oaks (Casuarina glauca).

Hippeastrum papilio
Butterfly Amaryllis 


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 a butterfly. These bulbs adapt well to growing in Sydney in well-drained soil and are available from the Growing Friends Nursery. Open Monday - Friday 11 am – 2 pm and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

Rogiera amoena
Yellowthroat Rondeletia 

With the coming of spring, this shrub from Central America becomes covered in dense heads of small white and pink flowers. The flowers are rich in nectar and attract birds, butterflies and bees. Their sweet fragrance fills the air and even inspired a popular 19th century perfume called Rondeletia. It is an easy to grow plant that is drought tolerant but does not like frost, and the flowers make good cut flowers. The species epithet 'amoena' is fittingly derived from the Latin word for lovely.

Prunus campanulata
Taiwan Cherry

This flowering cherry is native to China, Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam. It is a small deciduous tree growing to 10m tall and is one of the earliest to flower of the ornamental cherry trees with flowers appearing in late winter. It produces deep red, bell-shaped clusters of flowers that are borne on bare branches before the leaves appear, attracting insects and nectar feeding birds. The bright green leaves emerge in spring changing to dark green in summer before turning to bronze in autumn.

Eucalyptus robusta
Swamp Mahogany

Eucalyptus robusta occurs naturally along a thin coastal strip from Nowra in the south to Bundaberg in Queensland. They are restricted to swamps, edges of saltwater estuaries and lagoons. Flowers provide nectar for the Grey-headed Flying Fox and leaves are eaten by koalas. Trees along the northern side of the Macquarie Wall were planted as street trees soon after the completion of Mrs Macquaries road in 1816. Only two original trees remain making them Sydney's oldest street trees.

Veltheimia bracteata
Forest Lily

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 also make it resilient to drought or dry spells during Sydney’s summer.


Macadamia jansenii
Bulberin Nut

This is one of only four macadamia species in the world and all occur on the east coast of Australia. It is the rarest of the four and is endangered in the wild. It was only described scientifically in 1992 after its discovery by a group of 'bush botanists' and is named for one of them, Ray Jansen. There are less than 100 trees in the wild in a number of small populations north west of Bundaberg in Queensland. Unlike its more famous relatives Macadamia tetraphylla and integrifolia, the nuts are not edible. However, it produces pendulous racemes of fragrant flowers popular with native bees.

Explore and learn more

Download the self-guided tour to visit August's must-see plants at your own pace or join one of our knowledgeable Volunteer Guides on a Guided Walk of the Garden, daily at 10:30 am. 

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