Monday, 13 June 2011

Sex and Death

I think its testament to how much there is to see in the gardens that it has been a year before I have posted about the glasshouse.  Since October last year there has been an exhibition on 'Sex and Death' - a fascinating collection of orchids and carnivorous plants, both exotic and native.  I took these pictures a few weeks ago, so I'm not sure if these flowers will still be there.  I was disappointed I had missed seeing Grammatophyllum papuanum in flower - the world's largest orchid, which occupies a whole corner of the glasshouse.  The plant was collected from Papua New Guinea in the 1980s and it is a very tricky plant to keep in cultivation, so the botanic garden was thrilled when it flowered twice in recent years.
The glasshouse has a lot of plants and facts crammed into its modest space, including some interesting facts about the humble Banana Musa paradisiaca, translated from the original arabic name 'Tree of Paradise'!  Bananas are in fact giant herbs that grow from underground rhizomes.  There are more than 100 varieties of banana grown around the world, in Australia there are 4 native species M.  paradisiaca, M. banksii, M. fitzalanii and M. hillii.  
I also learnt that some plants, including most orchids, are potentially immortal!  Although flowers, leaves, stems and roots will die of old age, the plant will keep on growing unless killed by disease, accident or are eaten.

Another interesting fact is that not all carnivorous plants are carnivorous, some are vegetarian!  Nepenthes ampullaria is one such vegetarian found in lowland SE Asian and New Guinea, which catches leaves and debris in its open pitcher on the forest floor.  There were plenty of the carnivorous variety in the glasshouse too though, including this Venus flytrap dionaea muscipula and carnivorous pitcher plant: