four of the trees in the RBG

Growing in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne are 4 interesting trees.

Of course there are many MANY more than these! These are just some of the trees that Jan and Garry, our helpful and enthusiastic volunteer guides, pointed out on a recent walk in the Gardens.

1. Gingko biloba (Maidenhair tree)

Gingko biloba is a living fossil. It is a unique species of tree with no living relatives. It was cultivated widely in ancient times, and some specimens are claimed to be over 2,000 years old. (Not the specimen above, that one is a relative newbie).
The G. bilbao is no longer found in the wild except in a few parts of China. China claims a special relationship with this tree. Recently the Chinese ambassador presented the Australian Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce, with the gift of a gingko seed in a perspex tube.

The leaf shape is beautiful and unique among seed plants. Reproduction is also unusual - Ginkgos are dioecious which means trees are either male or female. The female ovules get fertilized by motile sperm, as is the reproductive way with ferns, cycads, mosses and algae.

It has long been used for its memory and health enhancing properties, as well as for food. In recent times it has been used as a treatment for people with dementia.
2. Acacia laprosa 'Scarlet Blaze' (Cinnamon wattle)

Acacia leprosa 'Garden Blaze' is a rare wattle with bright red flowers. (The tree in the photo has lots of buds but isn't quite ready to show its red flowers). It was discovered as recently as in 1995 a group of bushwalkers in the Black Range State Forest north-east of Melbourne.

On a side track one of them noted a single red-flowering variant of Acacia leprosa among the usual yellow-flowering ones. One of the bushwalkers picked a flower and eventually it ended up in the National Herbarium where it was identified as a new species and given the name 'Scarlet Blaze'.

The tree was subsequently grown in the Gardens from cuttings. Because it was so attractive, as well as compact and easy to grow, it was successfully launched on the horticultural market.

And yet it could so easily have remained undiscovered!

3. Erythrina crista-galli (Cockscomb Coral tree)

Erythrina crist-gall is a slow growing deciduous tree from South America. Its special feature is its beautiful deeply furrowed bark. Its form is achieved by pollarding - a pruning technique that stimulates dense flowering. Branches are pruned annually without disturbing callusing 'knuckles' to provide a spectacular floral display in early summer.Bark is not only for show. Bark wraps around the trunk of the tree like a suit of armour, protecting the delicate tissues inside. These tissues carry water and nutrients to all parts of the tree. That is why ringbarking a tree can kill it as it cuts into the vital living tissues. The heart of the tree is actually dead. (Bark Factsheet, ABC Gardening Australia).
4. Jubaea cilensis (Chilean Wine palm)

As its name says, Jubaea cilensis comes from South America. The sap of the palm is rich in sucrose and can be boiled down to make palm sugar or fermented to make wine. Unfortunately to do this the palm must be chopped down. Because of this it is now endangered in the wild.This individual tree is over 107 years old. It was planted by R.L.J. Ellery, Government Astronomer in the second half of the nineteenth century. Ellery lived and worked in the Observatory, a building still situated adjacent to the Gardens. So it is not only an interesting species - this particular specimen is rooted in the history of Melbourne.

In 2009 it was decided that employees of the RBG with 20 or more years of service will have the opportunity to plant a tree in either the Melbourne or Cranbourne Gardens. The tree will not have a commemorative plaque like the one below, but it will provide a lasting personal link for that person and their future descendents with the landscape and its history.


  1. Beautiful precious trees! Thanks for posting. Now I learn a lot about these precious trees. Gingko biloba looks really pretty also. That super precious gingko seed gift is just for display or to be planted?

  2. These are all interesting trees, with interesting stories, Catmint. I hope you'll be doing another four soon!

  3. Dear Steph - I don't know the answer to your question. It makes me think of an interesting idea for a post on plants and diplomacy.

    Dear Faisal, thanks for the comment. I have the info collected for another 4 but didn't have the energy to do any more today.

    cheers, catmint

  4. We are familiar with the Gingko biloba having seen it in various arboretum but the others are new to me. When we were in West Africa last year the men were all sitting around drinking palm wine, I wonder if this is the same tree. I had thought they tapped it like Maple syrup, hadn't realised the tree would be cut down,such a shame. Our open weekend is this weekend, 11/12 June but thanks for thinking of us !!

  5. Whenever I see a gingko biloba tree it reminds me of my life as a student living in studio apartment in Japan where all along the road to school there are these trees growing. It was amazing to see how they change every season and how fast the time pass.

  6. Hi Catmint, Thanks for the tour of the trees! The Gingko is one that is found here in the US, planted in favorable conditions. Non-native, as you would know. Erythrina crist-gall is quite the amazing tree! Wouldn't you love to climb it? ;-) Nice job!!

    btw: In response to people's visits, I've posted a little poll! Want to return to take it? (sidebar)

  7. Beautiful trees. I always did think that Gingko trees had the prettiest leaves.

  8. Such an interesting and informative post. I particularly like the story of the Acacia leprosa 'Garden Blaze'or scarlet.

  9. Dear Pauline, I was a bit early for your open garden thing - will be thinking of you this coming weekend! If it was Africa I suppose it could be another source for the palm wine? Hopefully it wasn't a tree they had to destroy to get the wine.

    Dear MKZ, what an interesting image - rows of Gb trees along streets in Japan - it must have been lovely to watch the changes.

    Dear Shady, I'm so pleased you like this post. I don't think I'd like to climb the Erythrina tree though - I'd rather climb a tree with smoother bark!

    Dear Lona, yes those leaves are so pretty and so distinctive, aren't they?

    Dear Alastair, thanks for the visit. I thought the Scarlet Blaze story worth writing about - makes you wonder how many natural hybrids come and go in the wild without anyone knowing about them.

    cheers, catmint

  10. A smaller softer greener leaf with the ginkgo form is the maidenhair fern Adiantum.

  11. Interesting trees. Gingko biloba is the only one I've seen myself - it is planted here in the northeastern US in parks and yards. It's not one of the most common local trees, but it's not that rare, either.

    A large gingko is very colorful in the fall, with all of the leaves turning a bright yellow.

  12. Hi Diana, thanks for the comment, yes it is a similar leaf but it's not related otherwise I think.

    dear RSP, so good to hear from you - I wasn't familiar with the other trees either. I think also we're more familiar with the gingko because of its medicinal uses.

    cheers, catmint

  13. Hey that's a good topic! :-D


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