10 regional botanic gardens you need to visit
Australia’s regional botanic gardens are ‘living museums’, not merely places of scenic beauty.
BOTANIC GARDENS CONTAIN living scientific collections and are defined by technical guidelines that distinguish them from public parklands. Australia has about 100 regional botanic gardens and they’re often run by a team effort between local councils, community groups and volunteers with a passion for plants. These are our top 10:
1. Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden
Port Augusta, SA
Established in 1993, this 250ha native garden makes good use of its Upper Spencer Gulf location, where the arid zone and marine environment meet. The only garden worldwide that specialises in the southern arid zone of Australia, its collection promotes conservation of arid zone plant communities adapted to extreme weather.
2. North Coast Regional Botanic Garden
Coffs Harbour, NSW
Boardwalks wind through rainforest, dry sclerophyll, paperbark and mangrove habitats in this 20ha showcase of native species, as well as exotic plants, from Earth’s subtropical regions. An onsite seed bank and herbarium provides valuable information and scientific material about many rare or endangered native plants.
3. Flecker Botanic
Gardens, Cairns, QLD
Flecker gardens’ 8ha site, established in the late 19th century, has collections from tropical ecosystems and includes jungle plants, bamboo, local coastal flora, palms and gingers. There are tropical fruits and vegetables and a garden of local plants used by the region’s Indigenous people, the Yirrganydji.
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4. Olive Pink Botanic
Garden, Alice Springs, NT
In 1956 anthropologist and Indigenous rights campaigner Olive Pink worked with Warlpiri gardeners to transform 16ha in Alice Springs into the Southern Hemisphere’s first arid zone botanic garden. Opened to the public in 1985, the collection is 100 per cent natives, with more than 600 central Australian species, including 40 that are threatened or rare. The garden is also home to local fauna and in 2008 was listed on the Northern Territory Heritage Register.
5. Tasmanian Arboretum
A wide variety of native and exotic trees has been planted since this garden was established in 1984, with the aim of being an international standard arboretum. Its
66ha support the world’s biggest living collection of Tasmanian woody plants. Seeds from all of them are kept in an onsite seed bank. More than 80 bird species have been sighted here and the site’s Founders Lake is known for wild platypus.
6. Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens
Batemans Bay, NSW
Because its 42ha is located in Mogo State Forest, more than 75 per cent of this garden is natural forest. The rest is flora from a NSW South Coast region spanning the Clyde, Deua and Tuross river catchments. Living collection specimens are stored onsite in the Wallace Herbarium, and seedbank stores can be used in future plantings to create wildlife corridors.
7. Geelong Botanic Gardens
Established in 1851, this heritage-listed site is Australia’s fourth oldest botanic garden. It has several special collections, more than 90 per cent of which are labelled. It includes heritage roses and pelargoniums, and showcases such native groups as Drosera (carnivorous sundews). In addition, the grounds are steeped in colonial history, being dotted with old and restored buildings among the living collections. These include the century-old Cabman’s Shelter hut, a greenhouse dating from the early 1900s and the original Market Square fountains, which are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
8. Tondoon Botanic Gardens
With an emphasis on species from the local Port Curtis region and far north Queensland, more than 3000 species – 90 per cent of which are native – are cultivated at this
rolling 83ha property neighbouring Mount Biondello. Some endangered species are in the collection, aiding conservation of the region’s local flora. Walking trails wind through a variety of rainforest types and an arboretum of blue gums.
9. Wollongong Botanic Garden
This 27ha property, which was opened to the public in 1968, is home to collections that include roses, succulents, palms and the Towri Bush Tucker Garden, and has annex sites including coastal dune and wetland areas. Specimens are kept at the onsite herbarium, and seeds and plants collected are exchanged with other gardens and research institutions. To encourage the local community to engage in the conservation of local flora, environmental education programs are run through the gardens and native local species are sold from the garden’s nursery.
10. Hunter Region Botanic Gardens
This sprawling 133ha property is mostly preserved natural bushland. It has more than 150 understorey species interspersed beneath native forests, used by an array of fauna – including koalas, sugar gliders and wallabies. Cultivated areas are planted with a variety of species, many of which are natives. The onsite herbarium holds an extensive collection, including more than 10,000 specimens from the garden’s collections, the Hunter Region and habitats across Australia.