Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney II

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Figure 8. Brahea armata

While some of the palms are scattered in the lawns, (see Figure 8), most are concentrated in about 20 different gardens, some containing around a hundred palms (see Figure 10). The duck ponds have several islands where various Phoenix species grow undisturbed. In recent years some of the big old palm gardens have been extensively cleared of self-sown palms and over-abundant clumping palms, to allow for replanting and pathways through the palms (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. Palm trunks.

Figure 10. Palm Grove

However those gardens still have large numbers of palms of the following genera: Archontophoenix , Arenga, Brahea, Butia, Calamus, Caryota, Chamaedorea, Chamaerops, Coccothrinax, Dypsis, Howea, Linospadix, Livistona, Phoenix, Rhapis, Rhopalostylis, Sabal, Syagrus, Thrinax, Trachycarpus, Trithrinax, and Washingtonia.

Smaller numbers of other Genera include Acoelorrhaphe, Acrocomia, Allagoptera, Carpentaria, Dictyosperma, Euterpe, Gaussia, Hedescepe, Hyophorbe, Jubaea, Jubaeopsis, Laccospadix, Latania, Lytocaryum, Normanbya, Oraniopsis, Parajubaea, Pinanga, Polyandrococos, Pritchardia, Ptychosperma, Ravenea, Roystonia, Serenoa, Synechanthus, Veitchia, Wallichia, and Wodyetia.

There is a fair sampling of New Caledonian palms: Basselinia, Burretiokentia, Chambeyronia, Cyphophoenix, Cyphosperma, and Kentiopsis. The older cycads include Bowenia, Cycas, Encephalatos, Lepidozamia, and Stangeria.

Figure 11. Chamaerops humilis
Figure 12. Brahea brandegeii
Figure 13.
Figure 14. Butia capitata

There appears to have been little hybridization of all these old palms growing close together, except among the Phoenixspecies, which include a formidable P. canariensis X P. reclinata with huge multiple trunks. There is one hybrid plant of Howea forsteriana X H. belmoreana. Massive clumps of Rhapis excelsa and R. humilis have not hybridised, the R. humilis being all male and the R. excelsa not setting viable fruit. Numerous big clumps of Chamaedorea costaricana and C. potchutlensis grow together, but again there are no hybrids. The C. potchutlensis plants are all male, and appear not to produce pollen when the C. costaricana are in flower.

Pritchardia maideniana is a palm species that was until recently known only by two old trees in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens (Figure 15), having been lost in the wild, its origin unknown. In recent years seed has been collected and distributed to other Botanic Gardens from the Sydney plants. A number of young plants have also been grown and planted out in the Gardens (Figure 16).

Figure 15. Pritchardia maideniana
Figure 16. Young P. maideniana

New plantings have sometimes been experimental. Verschaffeltia splendida did not survive even halfway through the first winter, but another spiny palm from the Seychelles, Roscheria melanochaetes, has survived and looks as if it might "do". You never know till you try!

In about 1990, a group of Grey-headed flying foxes (fruit bats) decided to emulate the First Fleet and set up a Colony, no doubt attracted by the combination of big trees in which to roost and a good supply fruit in those trees. They are a protected animal, but unfortunately their activities caused almost terminal damage to some century old trees and a few palms. Various means were tried to persuade them to move elsewhere, the most successful being school children beating tin cans, but some of the animals have refused to move.

These have now been relocated to various sites around Sydney, and since June 2012, there have been no grey-headed flying-foxes roosting in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Satellite tracking has shown that the flying-foxes have moved to numerous colonies both within the Sydney region and across the east coast, as was observed prior to the relocation commencing. Pre-dawn noise was used to initially remove the flying foxes, and will continue to be used to deter the them from re-establishing.

Figure 17. Small Roscheria melanochaetes
Figure 18. Sacred Ibis

Also moving in fairly recently are the Sacred Ibis, a native water bird, not usually a city dweller. In the 1970s about six pairs were released from the Zoo across the harbour where they remained to breed as free-flying birds. Apparently some of their descendants moved over to the Botanic Gardens to join the feral pigeons and seagulls. In their natural habitat these birds are very wary, but those in the Gardens have become tame enough to accept food from the hand of a picnicker. Their beaks do appear to have been designed to forage in garbage bins.

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