Recently, whilst enjoying the Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne, we visited the Tropical Glasshouse. I've thought long and hard about writing a post about the glasshouse, because what I know about tropical plants would fit on - I was going to say a tropical plant leaf, but they seem to have quite large leaves, so it would have to be another kind of leaf: a salvia leaf, perhaps. However, the visit was absorbing and the plants unusual to me, and I thought I would share it.
The building of the glasshouse began in the early 1900s but it has been added to twice since then. It is heated by natural gas. The minimum temperature is 16 degrees C (obviously this climbs higher during the day), and humidity is about 70% or more. We certainly noticed the difference when we entered it on a grey Melbourne day.
All the plants are in pots, so repotting is an ongoing business.
There were many different Bromeliads, so fascinating with their varied leaf designs: zig-zaggy stripes, green splotchy dots on purple, greyish-green with shocking pink tips and white pinstripes. Bromeliads always have a little water tank in their centre which needs to be flushed out periodically. Mosquitoes can breed in them which also makes it a good idea to do the flushing. These plants are epiphytes and don't need to be in a lot of soil. I've learnt that they do just as well in orchid mix or sphagnum moss. Unfortunately there were no flowers on the bromeliads when we visited.
This pitcher plant (Nepenthes truncata: it had a label) has a leathery feel. Those rolled rims around the top of the pitcher are slippery and insects, or sometimes even a mouse or a frog, slide down only to become trapped and digested in the enzymes at the bottom of the pitcher, providing food for the plant. The pitchers themselves look like quivers for Hobbits' arrows! If Hobbits had arrows.
Anthuriums are also strange looking plants. The brightly coloured waxy looking part is a spathe or modified leaf, and not ( as I had thought) a flower. The tiny flowers can be found on the fleshy spike or spadix.
In the centre of the glasshouse is a trickling streamlet surrounded by many plants and rocks covered with small ferns, mosses and other damp-loving growths. I thoroughly enjoyed examining these microcosms with their different organisms. They're like a rainforest in miniature.
Finally, a view of the interior of the glasshouse. I have discovered, too late, that there are two Titan Arums in there and can't believe we didn't see them. Obviously they weren't in flower, because I'm sure their putrid smell would have been noticeable.
Botanical gardens usually have a glasshouse for visitors to wander through. Have you been to one you enjoyed?