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5 Oct 2022

Floral feast for pollinators in the October garden

Flowers are offering their nectar and pollen rewards to the birds, bees, butterflies and mammals throughout the Garden. Discover them and the flowers that attract them on this month’s tour. 

Maiden's Blush - Sloanea australis

This rainforest tree is endemic to the east coast of Australia, from Bateman’s Bay to Cape Tribulation. It is widespread in sheltered creeks and gullies and can grow to 30 metres. The trunk is often crooked, buttressed and irregular. The common name refers to the colour of the heartwood, which is pinkish and said to resemble a maiden’s blush. Creamy white flowers appear in spring followed by woody fruit that is eaten by rainforest birds. Family: Elaeocarpaceae.

Giant Spear Lily - Doryanthes palmeri

A close relative of the Gymea Lily (Doryanthes excelsa) the Giant Spear Lily is endemic to the coastal ranges in far northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland where it grows on rocky outcrops. The long sword-like leaves grow in rosettes and can be 3 metres long. The flowering stalk is up to 5 metres high, and the flower head contains up to 350 reddish flowers that are spread out along the stem causing it to droop, unlike the upright stem of the Gymea Lily. Family: Doryanthaceae

Stream Lily - Helmholtzia glabberima

This beautiful Australian native lily grows along rocky streams and steep rainforest gullies in the remnants of the Mt Warning Shield volcano in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. It survives in wet shady habitats due to its large underground rhizome and dense fibrous roots that act to secure it to the creek bed during floods. The large glossy dark-green strap-like leaves can reach 2 metres in length and in spring large flower spikes appear that are covered in hundreds of small white flowers. Family: Philydraceae

Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea

Beautiful, dangerous, and useful. This plant from Europe ticks all three boxes. Bell shaped pink and white flowers, lined with dots to guide pollinators to their nectar, tower above the foliage. Cardiac glycosides, digitoxin and digoxin are extracted from the leaves and used as a medication for heart failure. Plants were traditionally used as a cure for “right dropsy” (heart failure) in England. However, don’t forget that the leaves, flowers and seeds of this lovely biennial are poisonous if ingested. You can find Foxgloves featured in the Love Your Nature exhibit at the Calyx. Family: Plantaginaceae

Parrot's Beak - Lotus berthelotii

This pretty trailing plant is endemic to the Canary Islands and was first described in 1881. They are now considered severely endangered, if not extinct in the wild. This species and its cultivars have become popular as garden plants for their brightly coloured flowers, unique feathery silver foliage and drought tolerance. The genus name Lotus is also used as the common name for a group of unrelated aquatic plants including the Sacred Lotus. Family: Fabaceae

Banda (Gadigal) Dwarf Apple - Angophora hispida

This close relative of the Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata) is a mallee, with multiple, often contorted trunks growing to 7 metres. Easily overlooked, at this time of the year it shines. Bristly red buds burst open to reveal large staminate, white flowers that attract a myriad of insects. Pink-red new leaves with heart shaped bases are also emerging, clasped to the stem. The Dwarf Apple grows on Hawkesbury sandstone in the Sydney basin and north to Gosford. Family: Myrtaceae

Everlasting Daisies - Rhodanthe chlorocephala subsp. rosea

This everlasting daisy originates from the semi-arid part of south Western Australia where it grows on sandy soils. The papery, terminal flower heads range in colour from white to crimson with a yellow or black centre and are a magnet for pollinating bees. Flowers open fully in sunshine and close during overcast, wet conditions and at night. The fruit is dry and fluffy with fine filamentous hairs (pappus) aiding their wind dispersal and allowing them to carpet large areas in the wild. Family: Asteraceae

Australian Rockery

This rockery features just some of over 24,000 known species of Australian native plants, many of which are endemic to Australia. This is a great place to explore the variety and form of Grevilleas and their cultivars as well as see some unique plants from Western Australia, many of them grafted so they can grow in Sydney's humid and wet conditions. On show at this time of year are the Kangaroo paws, giant Gymea Lilies, Emu Bush and Everlasting Daisies.

Learn more 

Find out more about pollinators and pollination by joining our special “Love Our Pollinators Walk” on Sunday 16th October. You can also find these plants in the Garden with October’s self-guided tour map, put together by Garden volunteers.

Find out more about pollinators and pollination by joining our special “Love Our Pollinators Walk” on Sunday 16th October.