Imagine an environment where lush green rainforests border vibrant red desert landscapes. Well you don’t just have to visualise it, you can experience it first-hand at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Located at the foot of Black Mountain, the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) has become an iconic attraction since opening its doors in 1967.
With more than 78,000 plants sourced from different areas across Australia, the ANBG boasts the world’s largest collection of native Australian plants on display and showcases the diversity and beauty of the country’s natural environments.
As well as being a place where people can come and admire the vast collection of native flora and fauna that inhabit the area, the ANBG has become an important hub for education, research into plant classification and biology and conservation to help protect threatened species and potentially assist reintroduction into their natural habitats.
Nature becomes art
The ANBG is a gallery in its own right, showcasing a stunning collection of more than 6,000 species of plants and trees that are grouped into sections based on geographic origins and their botanical families.
These sections take visitors on a visual journey through the diverse and colourful world of Australian flora. One of the most popular exhibits at the ANBG is Rainforest Gully, where boardwalks help guide visitors through simulated rainforests representing the eastern coastline of Australia, from Tasmania to Queensland. Interpretive signs provide useful information about the different plants, while daily misting helps you stay cool in the summer.
In contrast to the cool, shady environment of Rainforest Gully is the Red Centre Garden, which is inspired by the avid environment in Central Australia. At the heart of the Red Centre Garden is an appreciation of Indigenous culture and portrayal of the strong connection between Indigenous people and nature. A feature of the garden is the Central Meeting Place, which includes an artwork pavement created by Indigenous artist Teresa Pula McKeeman in 2012. The painting is a tribute to Australia’s rich Indigenous culture, particularly within Central Australia and was inspired by the dance tracks left by women after ceremonial dancing.
A place to discover
If you want to delve a little deeper than what meets the eye there are guided tours offered daily to give you more information about plant types and their habitats. There are also bird walking tours and various treks for avid explorers, such as the 30-minute Children’s discovery walk that explains how plants are important for animal biodiversity. Another option is the Aboriginal plant use walk that uncovers what plants are eaten by Aboriginal people in different parts of Australia or used for medicinal purposes.
Education was always intended to be a key pillar of the ANBG, starting with the establishment of a display room to host exhibits for school students back in the early 1970s.
Since then education program has continued to grow, taking inquisitive minds beyond the classroom with hands-on activities to enrich the learning experience. The ANBG provides a series of facilitated programs that are tailored to different age groups, from pond dipping to Botanist apprentice where students gain in-depth experience in plant identification, plant structures, horticulture and photosynthesis.
Escape the daily grind
Open space, fresh air and the soothing sounds of nature make the ANBG an ideal place to escape the daily routine.
Relax and unwind to the serenity of the waterfall at the Rock Garden, while the Eucalypt Lawn is the perfect place to set up a picnic within the shade of more than 70 species of native Eucalypt trees. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to forget about time, schedules and commitments and let nature whisk you away.
For something more engaging, there is a regular events program providing fun activities for people of all ages, such as Friday Storytime for preschoolers, Grandparent’s Playgroup and Breakfast with the Birds. A popular family activity during spring is the afterDARK scavenger hunt where you can scour the gardens at night for hidden treats.
For more information visit www.anbg.gov.au
A brief history of the ANBG
A few years after opening to the public, the ANBG was officially opened in 1970 by then Prime Minister John Gorton.
The idea to establish the ANBG was first discussed in the 1930s, but no action was taken until after the end of World War 2 in 1945 where Lindsay Pryor – the newly appointed Superintendent of Parks and Gardens for Canberra – planted the garden’s very first eucalypts.
Significant developments took place throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including the establishment of vital infrastructure, including the nursery, research laboratory and herbarium.
Steady growth continued through the 1980s with the establishment of an amphitheatre, a café, an easy-access garden for disabled people, a glasshouse for teaching horticultural skills and the Visitor Centre. Friends of the ANBG, a non-profit community organisation that supports the gardens through guided tours and fundraising (among many other ways) was created in the 1990s, along with the formation of many key community partnerships, like the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research in conjunction with the CSIRO. It was through this partnership that pressed plant collections were brought together to form a single Australian National Herbarium.
But it is the availability of the Internet and rapid advancements in technology that have had the biggest impact at the ANBG, revolutionising data collection and allowing for information to be easily shared with the public.
Images courtesy of Australian National Botanic Gardens
Visiting the gardens
Daily from 8.30am to 5.00pm (closed Christmas). Visitor centre is open 9.30am to 4.30pm.
$3.00 per hour or $12.00 per day