Saturday, 24 October 2009

My Australian Adventure: Sydney Botanical Gardens

Prior to visiting Sydney I had one special place in mind to visit.  It wasn't, as you may think, the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge, which are extremely popular tourist attractions in their own right.  

The predicted, and later confirmed, highlight of my visit was to be Sydney Botanical Gardens!

The gardens were founded in 1816 by Governor Macquarie and positioned in what I can only describe as the most glorious location imaginable.  Entering the gardens on the city side I was truly unaware of where the gardens would take me.  I will admit outright that I am  a poor map reader.  I also try not to research a garden prior to visiting it as I like to learn as I go and enjoy my surroundings.  On this occasion I was very happy that I let the garden do the talking and fill my trip with pleasant and sometimes breathtaking surprises.

The first thing I definitely did not expect was to walk under an amazing number of very sleepy Grey Headed Flying Fox, Pteropus poliocephalus.

I walked through a beautiful wooded area, under-planted with several species of Tree Ferns, this completely held my attention.  That was of course until I noticed a vast quantity of guano undefoot!  I then made the horrifying discovery that I was directly underneath a giant fruit bat roost.  I swiftly moved out of the "firing line" and observed a sight that was truly magnificent.  There were hundreds of bats in several trees directly above me!

The bats were not original residents in the gardens and are very quickly becoming a pest.  Initially the bats stopped over on migration, feasting on the fruits and flowers the garden offers, but nowadays the bats have set up home in several large trees on the site.  The bats, a great tourist attraction in their own right, are also extremely damaging to the larger tree specimens that they choose to roost in.  A particular worry is that the bat's carry several diseases communicable to humans and this could prove problematic to the gardens attraction.  The local authority has obtained a license to control the population in a last ditch attempt to protect the gardens well loved treasues.  

One night, when walking to a fantastic Italian restaurant, I was part of an extremely eerie moment.  Picture a grey sky as dusk approached.  You look up to view the night sky, expecting to see stars, and watch several hundred bats in flight, each with its 1m (3.2ft) wingspan.  It was like a scene from a horror movie.  I'm not usually influenced by such things but this was a moment that did concern me slightly.

                    Anigozanthos                                                                                                                                              Xanthorrhoea                                                                                                                                             Tibouchina 

Personally, I found walking around the gardens far too exciting.  Like an old computer trying to run several applications or Stacey Soloman trying to sing whilst remembering to breathe (apologies for the X-Factor reference and to Stacey who is great) I found myself overwhelmed.

As I ventured around the beds and borders I became ever more increasingly excited, very much like a child fuelled on E-numbers at a birthday party (The types of party I was used to as a child, not like Martyn's recent experiences).  I took over 300 photographs in all, too many to feauture here, and now that I'm at home checking what I did manage to get a snap of I realise I missed so many important plants.

One special plant I did not miss, although I did walk past it at one point to get to the toilet, was the Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis.  

This tree, once lost to nature and most definitely not a Pine species, is now making a comeback.  It was discovered by a park officer by the name of David Noble in 1994.  David found the tree in the Blue Mountains, where he worked, and leaning on his botanical knowledge he had a sneaking suspicion that this tree was something quite different.  This initial suspicion proved to be correct. 

Since 1996, following a vast propagation programme, the tree has been made available to gardener's all over the world.

Calliandra haematocephala                                                                                                       Clivia miniata                                                                                                                                                 Brugmansia sp.     

Nestled between the beds and borders I stumbled upon a great vegetable garden.

It's currently Spring in Australia and the vegetable garden was most certainly looking very promising.  It was reassuring to see many school groups moving through the gardens, from both Primary School to High School age.

The tours put particular emphasis on vegetable gardens and from what I observed the children particularly appreciated the effort put in to creating such a wonderful scarecrow.

The succulent garden was looking great.  It housed many weird and wonderful specimens including some rather large Agave's.  

I tried to demonstrate the scale of one Agave but instead ended up looking foolish and slightly out of focus.  I'm 6ft in height so I think the photo manages to show the scale of the Agave to a degree.

This part of the succulent garden really impressed me.

The rusty metal landscaping helped to add height to a relatively flat area.  It was also planted and designed to exaggerate the colour contrasts you can achieve with succulents.

I was reminded just how varied the succulent world is in terms of colour, shape and habit.  Colours ranged from the  blue of Sencio serpens to deep bronze of Aeonium 'Zwartkop'.

When I started this entry I discussed the fantastic location of the gardens.  It wasn't until I walked right through the garden's that I discovered where they lead.  

The views were magnificent and showed of the true splendor of the magical place that is the Sydney Botanical Gardens.

I will add another post on the gardens shortly as I couldn't fit everything I wanted in to this post.  I hope you've enjoyed reading and continue to follow me in my Australian Adventure.


  1. Hi Ryan Many thanks for your encouraging words on my recent Meme post. I have not popped over to your blog for a while but clearly glad not to have missed this lovely post not somewhere I am likely to travell to so therefore even more enjoyable.

  2. Wow what a memorable visit that must have been Ryan. Your excitement certainly comes over in your post. I admire your restraint in trying not to research before garden visiting - sometimes it is best to go with the flow. Those bats sound rather spooky.

  3. Another great post. Your photos have really cheered me on a grey and dreary day!

  4. Hi Ryan. I really enjoyed this posting. Your narrative and descriptions were interesting, and funny (referring to the bats flying around at dusk event). I enjoyed the succulent part, toward the end, as well, as my succulent garden is taking off and is quite beautiful. I think I will enjoy it a little more now.

  5. wow! Australia! Good for you! And of course the Botanical Gardens would be a priority! (and I don't think you don't look foolish, you look great.)

  6. Awesome spot isn't it :O).... You're making want to visit again :O)


  7. The blog I was waiting for! The SBG is one of the coolest gardens in the world. The fact that it's free entry means that people in the city can make as much use of it as they like.

    The views across the harbour to the Opera House and bridge are amazing. A very photogenic garden!

    Look forward to more,

  8. Ryan, your entries from Australia have been among my favorites. At first, I thought the bats were fruit or pods hanging from the tree, sort of like those on a cacao.

    Again, one of your pictures sparked a memory of being back in fourth grade with Mrs. Woolhandler. Calliandra haematocephala. I'd drawn a perfectly lovely picture of one on a mural and she altered it! Old bat! lol

    Your pictures are terrific and even the mental picture of hundreds of bats swooping about at dusk is vivid, thanks to your description. Thanks for posting your trip!

    Jan (@blawnoxgirl)

  9. What a great photo of the flying foxes. When I first looked at the photo, I thought those were bird's nest or seed pods. It wasn't until I enlarged it that I could see what they really were. What an awesome sight that must have been.

  10. What a view in your last photo. Fantastic.

  11. Hi Ryan,
    Or should I start calling you "batman" now?
    My favorite part of your post was the succulents. They were gigantic! And I thought my hens and chicks were cool. These kick a**!
    Thanks for posting this.

  12. Ah, these are magnificent the flowers most.


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